Family members of a victim told WVII that workers at a fertilizer factory were performing routine maintenance Wednesday afternoon, but things went wrong after a spark ignited fire.
Emergency crews from six towns rushed to the massive Northeast Agriculture factory in Detroit Wednesday, after an explosion inside.
Pittsfield Fire Chief Beernard Williams stated "They found that they had a fire in the hopper, in the sulfur dust. So, we got the Central Maine Emergency Response Team and HAZMAT team started."
Three workers were taken to hospitals and two of them are expected to be okay. The third was taken by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center's burn unit, but that person's status is still unknown.
The sulfur powder used in fertilizer is dangerous if inhaled, and extremely flammable. Because of that, the company has scheduled cleanings of its systems.
Chief Williams stated "They do an annual cleaning on this when they're done their big runs, and they were in the process of doing that cleaning and that's where the fire started, was at the top."
The building was immediately evacuated, and while first responders arrived on scene within 15 minutes of the blast. They didn't rush to go inside. "Part of the problem was, there was some question of what was actually in the hopper besides sulfur. The sulfur dust is what actually caused the fire, and sulfur dust, it doesn't take much to ignite it." added Chief Williams.
Crews had the fire contained in about an hour and a half.
The father of one of the victims came to the scene later in the day. And while he didn't go on camera, he said his son was helping with the cleaning when he saw a spark fall, almost in slow motion, toward the sulfur bin. He said his boss turned to the workers and yelled, "run."