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Fire reported for second time in six weeks at wood stove pellet plant

August 22, 2008|By DON AINES

MARION, PA. -- For the second time in recent weeks, firefighters on Friday responded to a report of a building explosion at a company that manufacturers wood stove pellets.

"It shook people's houses ... It was like a big dynamite explosion," said Bonnie Largent, who lives near the plant. "This is like the fourth time it's happened, and something needs to be done before it reopens. It's a hazard."

Smoke was coming from one hopper on the side of the former feed mill and flames came out of the top of a second larger one next to it as firefighters hosed it down.

Todd Sites, deputy chief of the Marion Volunteer Fire Company, said the plant was operating at the time of the explosion, but no one was injured. The Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal was asked to investigate the cause of the blaze, he said.

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Sipes said there were two possible causes - static electricity or a spark in an auger igniting wood dust. The latter was the cause of a reported explosion at the plant on July 15, he said.

The company grinds up wood pallets to make the pellets, and a piece of metal from one of them getting into the auger is believed to have sparked the July 15 fire, Sipes said.

The fire was reported at 3:57 p.m. and was under control within about an hour, Sipes said. The last units left the scene at 6:41 p.m., he said.

"It rattled houses clear down to the end of Marion," said Dawn Largent, Bonnie Largent's sister, who lives within sight of the plant.

"I saw the shock wave bouncing off my neighbor's house," Jeremy Barnhart said.

"It was loud," said his brother, Justin Barnhart. "My ears are still ringing."

Along with Marion, units from the Franklin, New Franklin, Greencastle Rescue Hose, Friendship and Fayetteville fire companies, a Chambersburg ambulance and the Franklin County Emergency Air Unit responded to the scene.

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