Danlin chemical plant explosion rocks the town of Thomas

A chemical plant explosion in the Town of Thomas prompts evacuations and sends fireballs hundreds of feet into the air. Fire and emergency crews spent all of Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon monitoring the scene at Danlin Industries.

As of Thursday night three homes were still evacuated across the street from the plant, but others were allowed back.

Friday, hazmat crews will continue to check the air surrounding the plant to see if it's clear of chemicals. If it is, emergency crews will be allowed back in and the investigation and clean up process will begin.

FOX25 viewer James Rainwater lives less than a mile from the site and sent us cell phone video of the explosions Wednesday night.

"As soon as I came out of the house people were saying Danlin has exploded," said Rainwater. "So I knew pretty quickly that it was Danlin."

The explosion happened around 10:00 p.m. All of the 75 employees had gone home hours before. Danlin produces chemicals for the oil and gas industry. Nearly all of those chemicals were flammable.

"Once the container explodes all of the flammables ignite immediately and that's when you get that big fireball," said Custer County Emergency Manager Mike Galloway.

Immediately emergency crews evacuated residents within a four mile radius. Because the town of Thomas doesn't have equipment to handle volatile chemicals, firefighters had no choice but to stand back and let it burn.

Thomas's fire chief said, "If we put water on it the chemicals are going to spread. So we just have to let it burn."

By Thursday evening the fire was out. All that was left was a foot and a half of smoldering ash and the remains of the plant.

"The fire Marshall is going to do their investigation and see if we can find the cause of this fire," said Galloway.

Galloway says investigators will look into every possible cause including arson. Neighbors in this small town are just thankful no one was hurt.

"It's certainly the talk of Thomas that's for sure," said Rainwater.

As of Thursday night there were no emergency crews on the scene, but there was one armed guard right outside of the plant.

In preparation for possible rain, crews did set up embankments around the plant so any remaining chemicals don't spread.