Biofuel plant fire extinguished; highway to reopen

fire-vectorNEW ALBANY — A fire at a north Mississippi biofuels plant has been extinguished.

The fire, put out about 7:30 p.m. yesterday, had been burning since early Wednesday at the plant near New Albany, but no injuries were reported. There were also at least three explosions at JNS Biofuels, formerly known as North Mississippi Biodiesel.

“The fire is out,” said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Brett Carr in a telephone interview. “It took less than an hour.”

Firefighters used 100 gallons of foam and 20,000 gallons of water to put out the blaze, he said. Crews currently are working to ensure that mixture doesn’t get into area rivers and streams, he said.

Plant manager Carl Harlin said damage could be in the millions.

Classes were canceled yesterday as a precaution at schools in nearby New Albany, a town of about 8,000 people. There also was a voluntary evacuation order for about 50 homes.

“The evacuation was voluntary to begin with so folks have been allowed back in their homes,” Carr said. “It’s really up to the homeowner. They’ll likely officially lift it (today).”

Carr said the fire began with an explosion Wednesday morning at the plant. He said there was a second explosion Wednesday afternoon and a third yesterday morning.

Carr said the plant makes poultry-based biofuel, and officials believe chicken fat and glycerol were burning.

The cause of the initial explosion is not known.

Carr said teams were in place to monitor the air for hazardous chemicals, but none had been detected.

Authorities also said the fire shut down part of Highway 15, and an explosion damaged a power substation that temporarily knocked out electricity to parts of Tippah County on Wednesday. Two industrial businesses nearby were evacuated.

North Mississippi Biodiesel was founded in 2005, according to records filed with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. JNS Biofuels was incorporated in 2011, the records show.

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality permits for the facility under name of North Mississippi Biodiesel show it is licensed to store tens of thousands of gallons of material, including biodiesel, glycerin, methanol and feedstock oil.

In a related item, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans today to reopen Highway 15, which was closed due to the fire. All traffic is being re-routed to Highway 115 until the closure is lifted.

 

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