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Iowa Explosion started by Static Electricity

August 2, 2007

Sioux Center, Iowa -- Static electricity was the cause of a massive fire that sent one man to the hospital and forced the evacuation of about 2000 people from their homes in Sioux Center, Iowa.

According to officials the blast happened when a tanker truck was unloading a flammable substance into a railroad car Tuesday afternoon, when the truck exploded at the Farmers Co-op Society. At least one of the 13 rail cars on the nearby track at the time of the blast also contained some gasoline.

Lenore Prins heard the explosion from her home about a block away. "First it was one, and then probably three, four, five more," she said. "I looked out the window and there was a lot of black smoke and fire."

Nearby residents reported seeing flames shooting into the sky as high as 50 feet or more.

The Sioux Center Fire Department was call to the scene at 4:45 p.m. Authorities ordered an evacuation of residents within a half-mile of the site. No buildings were destroyed and the evacuation order was canceled just before midnight said Fire Chief David Van Holland.

Authorities said that the unidentified driver of the truck was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City and then was air lifted to the St. Elizabeth Burn Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. No information is available on the extent of his injuries.

The investigation by the state fire marchall's office found that the fire was a result of flammable gasoline vapors being ignited by static electricity.


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