Explosion Shakes Up Trumann Community

March 17, 2004 -- Posted at 4:28 p.m. CST

TRUMANN -- A blast at the Columbia Forest Products Plant startled residents in Trumann Tuesday night.

Paula Niswonger lives so close, she can see the plant from her front yard.
"I felt the explosion. It sounded like dynamite going off at first and the whole house rumbled, so we run to the front and my grandchildren and I were still up and looked and everybody was running up that way," said Niswonger.

Her neighbor, Anthony Dahmer also heard the explosion, and wasn't sure what to think.

"I just heard a big explosion and the whole roof caught on fire basically, I guess that's when all the dust from the silo caught on fire, I mean you could see all the flames over here," said Dahmer, indicating to his home, just a few hundred yards from the plant.

The flames were high and the noise loud last night...leaving folks today wondering what happened.

"It's scary when you don't know what's going on and you look outside and theres a lot of people wondering," said Niswonger.

"A spark came from one of the saws that came up into the dust collector and before they could get it shut down, it caused a dust explosion," said Rick Winkles, Trumann fire chief:

According to plant security...a boiler ignited and blew up a silo containing sawdust that was next to it, causing a two-hundred foot ball of fire. Fire officials say the initial blast lasted about 10 minutes, but fortunately, no one was injured.

"We got on the scene and within 30 to 40 minutes we had the main fire put out...they had a second silo there and we had to extinguish that, and it took us about three hours to wash it all out, because it's all full of sawdust and we had to make sure there were no hot spots left in that," said Winkles.

The cleanup is just now beginning, and as for now, the Columbia Forest Products Plant will remain closed until further notice.