Grain elevator explodes in Tensas Parish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

WATERPROOF — An explosion at a grain elevator in southern Tensas Parish did not injure anyone, but had to be allowed to burn.

The explosion happened approximately 1 p.m. Thursday at a grain elevator located on the river side of the Mississippi River levee across from the village of Waterproof.

The explosion actually occurred in the leg of the grain elevator, Tensas Parish Sheriff Rickey Jones said.

The grain is moved through the elevator leg, Jones said.

“From what I understand, it hadn’t been cleaned out in a while and there was a lot of dust buildup in there,” he said.

“There was a dust combustion that set off a fire.”

The combustion resulted in two explosions, and the Tensas Parish Fire Chief, who is also named Ricky Jones, said the spark that started the fire was likely caused by a small piece of metal that was mixed in with the grain as it was dumped into the elevator.

“A spark will ignite grain dust just like dynamite,” he said.

Two workers were in the area at the time, but both were unharmed.

The fire had to be allowed to burn for a while firefighters accessed the structural stability of the elevator, but once it was determined that it was structurally sound, firefighters entered and started extinguishing the flames, Chief Jones said.

Eventually, the crews backed out of the elevator for the night, and Friday morning a construction crew came into the area and started dismantling parts of the elevator to start putting out the rest of the smoldering grain, Chief Jones said.

“We took a truck back down there (Friday) morning for three of four hours, and they got it to a point where they felt they could handle it,” he said.

Sheriff Jones said that a buffer zone was maintained around the elevator Thursday, but it has been lifted.

“It was a scary situation for a while,” he said.