Nightly News   |  July 30, 2013

Florida propane explosion one of several recent US plant fires

In the last three months there have been eight plant fires or explosions around the country including the fertilizer blast in West, Texas that killed 15. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> local police at first could not understand why so many people across such a huge area were all calling 911 at the same time. for the folks who live near the explosions that lit up the propane plan the in central florida , they were enough to turn night into day. homes were rocked for miles around. eight injuries in all. something of a miracle no one was killed when so much fuel ignited and blew sky high . propane is one of those things that makes life go in this country. has to be handled carefully, and a lot of folks tend to think of the danger only after a large quantity goes up the way it did in spectacular fashion. we begin tonight at the scene with mark potter . mark, good evening.

>> good evening to you, brian. many of the first responders who came here to fight the fire did not need to be called in by the dispatchers. from their own homes they heard the explosion and saw the blaze. the overnight blast and flames could be heard and seen for miles. hot metal was sent flying through the air, injuring eight workers. the first of the explosions happened at the blue rhino plant northwest of orlando. they fill propane tanks used in backyard grills.

>> this is one of the worst fires i've ever come across.

>> 53,00020 pound tanks were at the plan the. most exploded. the charred canisters can be scene littering the property. authorities say the only good news is that the three 30,000 gallon tanks which supply the smaller ones did not explode. had they, the damage could have spread for miles.

>> those explodes would have been like a bomb, and would have created huge damage.

>> federal and state officials are trying to determine the cause of the accident.

>> we don't think there was any act of sabotage or anything like that. we honestly think it was probably an equipment failure with a combination of maybe human error from one of the staff.

>> in a statement, the company's ceo said safety has always been an integral part of our culture, we maintain strict standards at each of our facilities. in the last three months, there have been eight plant fires or explosions around the country. including the fertilizer blast in west texas which killed 15 and injured 200.

>> the communities are left in the dark, when they've got deadly hazards literally across the street, right on the fence line of their neighborhoods.

>> greenpeace says there are more than 12,000 plants in the u.s. that use highly toxic chemicals that could threaten people living nearby if there was a disaster.

>> today the investigation into the cause of the fire here was slowed, when one of those big propane tanks sprung a leak. they had to water it down, and the police once again had to seal off the area. brian?

>> mark potter starts us off tonight from central florida . mark, thanks.