Explosion blows the roof off silo in Pa.

January 25, 2006|by DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - An apparent explosion of sawdust Tuesday morning blew the metal roof off a silo in Southampton Township.

"It was all blown off when I came out" of the barn, said owner Reuben Oberholtzer of 7490 Old Scotland Road. The blackened conical metal roof had not fallen to the ground, but was leaning against a taller adjacent silo.

Oberholtzer said he did not hear an explosion, but the woodworking machinery he was running inside the barn "makes quite a bit of noise." His wife told him what happened, and he said a passing motorist called Franklin County's 911 Center to report smoke coming from the barn.

Oberholtzer said he used the silo to store sawdust produced by the machinery in the barn and there was about 8 feet of it in the bottom of the concrete structure at the time. Sawdust suspended in air can explode, he said, but he did not know what might have been the ignition source.


The fire was called in at 11:36 a.m. and firefighters were on the scene for about 90 minutes, according to a 911 dispatcher. A ladder truck was used to attach a cable to the silo roof, which was pulled off the silo and crashed to the ground.

While silo fires happen occasionally, West End Fire & Rescue Co. Chief Randy O'Donnell said it was the first time he had seen the roof blown off of one.

"Our guys just took a class Saturday and Sunday about silo fires and silo hazards," O'Donnell said.

Firefighters from the Vigilant and Cumberland Valley Hose companies in Shippensburg assisted, as did units from Newville, Walnut Bottom and Mont Alto, O'Donnell said. Most of the support was in the form of tankers to bring in water to pour on the smoldering sawdust, he said.

Sunday night, firefighters from Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties were called in to assist on a major barn fire in the township, O'Donnell said.

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