Officials with Airgas say their plant in Putnam County is closed for now, but will reopen for business Wednesday.  An explosion occurred Monday afternoon in a concrete cylinder storage bunker outside the plant near Bancroft.

“We do have safety procedures we follow,” Airgas spokesman Doug Sherman told MetroNews Wednesday. “We are now investigating to find out exactly what caused this incident.”

A number of the cylinders lit up as a fire burned in the bunker and caused the heat sensitive valves to blow out and bleed off gas inside.  Emergency officials on scene say the cylinders contained only minimal amounts of acetylene and workers were releasing the residual gas from those cylinders when the first explosion happened.

“The fire was extinguished and was contained to the concrete enclosed storage area,” Sherman said. “We’re currently working with local authorities to determine what caused the incident.”

Two workers suffered first and second degree burns and were transported to Cabell-Huntington Hospital from the scene.  Sherman did not have an update on their conditions.

Most of the damage was contained to the one storage area.  Sherman said two windows in the plant building were broken, but otherwise the plant operation is unaffected by the incident.    Airgas has 11 employees at the Putnam County plant including the plant manager.

OSHA and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are involved in the investigation.


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