Fire chief, witnesses react after propane plant explosion in Marshfield

Published: May. 13, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT|Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Nearly 10,000 small propane tanks caught fire at a Marshfield propane plant Thursday, leading to an explosion that rattled nearby businesses and homes.

An investigation is underway after the explosion at the Kosan Crisplant plant, formerly known as the Pinnacle Plant. The facility is located just off State Highway OO in the 700 block of South Prairie Lane.

Investigators say three employees inside the facility escaped. Emergency crews treated one employee, who was sent to the hospital with unknown injuries.

Calls flooded Marshfield’s fire department just before 5 p.m. Thursday. The explosion was reported at a propane plant in the city’s industrial center. Then, more blasts triggered evacuations, while firefighters rushed to put out the flames.

Michael Taylor, fire chief for the Marshfield Protection District, says this was unlike anything he’s seen in 31 years on duty.

“We had to hang back, because the propane tanks going airborne and flying a hundred feet in the air, literally at times,” said Taylor. “And there’s the threat of a 33,000 gallon gas tank that the fire was close to.”

Viewers say thick smoke from the explosion could be seen for miles, some reporting they saw it in Springfield, Nixa and Taney County.

Agencies from all over the area were called out here to assist in the effort. While the fire was contained within nearly three hours, many crews are still out at the facility late Thursday for follow-up work.

The plume of smoke that caught the eye of many consisted of multiple explosions. Taylor estimates nearly 10,000 propane tanks were involved. Many of those flying up into the air.

“Put us in a situation where we kind of had to back off and protect other buildings and get the neighborhood evacuated in case we lost that large tank,” said Taylor. “So it did take us a while before we could attack the fire itself.”

Responders were primarily concerned about the people nearby and keeping everyone at a safe distance. Some neighborhoods and nearby buildings were evacuated.

The fire took quite a bit of effort and time to put out. Flames rose to heights of 60 feet or more. The fire was contained after nearly three hours.

People all over Marshfield gathered Thursday to figure out what it was they heard. As three witnesses recalled:

“I heard explosions, and I thought maybe it was an airplane. I saw it was a fire and it was billowing up, and shooting way up in the air, and then gas tanks exploding.”

“I was working on school work, and all of a sudden, I hear a big boom go off. Just out of nowhere. I had headphones on. Just blasting music working. There was one just one that was rapidly booming. I took a look outside, and was like ‘something’s wrong.’”

“At first I thought it was the train going by. There’s a train that goes by right over here, so I thought it was that. I heard a pop and then I looked up and saw the fire and then that’s when one of the explosions happened and I kind of fell back a little.”

The Marshfield Fire Protection District has not determined what caused the fire. The Missouri Propane Gas Commission and Missouri Fire Marshal’s Office are also helping with the investigation.

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