Spontaneous combustion of overheated material led to 2019 fire at Radford Army Ammunition Plant

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 12:57 PM EDT
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RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - The cause of a fire at Radford Army Ammunition Plant in June 2019 was overheated material that spontaneously ignited when it was exposed to air as the operator pulled it out of the mixer.

That’s according to a spokesperson for the plant, who said the operator sustained minor burns and three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. All were released from a hospital the same day.

In a public meeting hosted via Facebook Live, it was announced the plant has implemented operational and procedural changes to prevent this from happening again and further reduce risk to employees. Employee training has been tailored to recognize specific risk variables that contributed to the incident. Plant officials said if these conditions happen again, all operations are stopped, employees removed, and a response team is deployed.

Maintenance procedures were also modified to reduce risk of propellant heating and additional safety zones were implemented to increase employee protection.

The plant said, “Producing propellant is an inherently dangerous profession, and the health and safety of our workers is our top priority. No fires have occurred in this production area since these changes were implemented.”

The fire took place an hour into the first day of command by Lt. Col. Anthony, who made safety a priority at an announcement minutes before the fire broke out.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Kazor said shortly after the ceremony. “It always has been. It always will be. The workforce - without them, we can’t do what we do to meet our mission and safety is number one, will be foremost and always. It goes ahead of production and everything else.”

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