A Rio Valley Biofuel
s plant in Anthony, New
Mexico, caught fire and experienced a series of small
explosions on Tuesday, sending a column of black smoke into
the air and prompting authorities to briefly evacuate the
local area, including about 350 homes.
According to the Associated Press, a series of small
explosions were reported at the plant, which produces
biodiesel for businesses and farmers in southern New Mexico.
There was no immediate word of any injuries.
Operations manager Jed Smith said he believed all five
employees who work at the plant were OK, according to the
Associated Press report.
County officials activated their emergency operations
center and declared a hazardous materials emergency,
according to reports. Residents were allowed back into their
homes by early afternoon.
The town of Anthony is near the New Mexico-Texas border
between Las Cruces, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.
Company officials said the cause of the fire was not yet
known. Witnesses described hearing loud explosions and seeing
large flames as fire trucks and emergency responders rushed
to the scene.
Local authorities said the half-mile area around the plant
was evacuated because of the threat of explosions from methanol
being stored on the
premises. Other chemicals on the site include vegetable oil,
hydrochloric acid and biodiesel.
According to the Rio Valley Biofuel
s website, the plant
produces between 3,000 and 6,000 gal/day of biodiesel.
Commercial production began in 2006 from recycled oil from
local food processors.
County hazardous-materials specialists are expected to
inspect the site further on Wednesday to determine what
chemicals may hav ebeen affected or released in the fire,
according to the Associated Press story.