La Crosse Fire Dept. investigating cause of explosion in La Crosse

1 person injured in explosion; Shelter in Place Order canceled

The cause of an early Wednesday morning explosion at Midwest Industrial Asphalt on Sumner St., near Copeland Park in La Crosse is under investigation. Midwest Industrial Asphalt clarified during a news conference on Monday that it owns a sister company called Midwest Fuels that operates there, but the explosion happened at Midwest Industrial Asphalt.

The explosion happened just before 7 a.m. La Crosse residents around the area told News 8 it shook their homes. Emergency crews contained the fire at about 8:30 a.m.  and a Shelter in Place order that had been issued was canceled.

Tri-State Ambulance said one person was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. La Crosse firefighters told News 8 male worker, who has not been identified, was treated and released for burn related injuries. Firefighters were not injured.

When crews arrived on scene, they found one fuel tank completely engulfed and were worried it would spread to other tanks.

“Not only are we going to deal with the situation that is at hand right here, but we have to think about step two, step three and what could possibly happen if things get worse,” said Chief Gregg Cleveland with the La Crosse Fire Department.

Cleveland put his action plan into place by calling in emergency crews from surrounding areas. Cleveland said it was important to stay one step ahead of the disaster.

“We don’t want to get behind the eight ball on these types of things because it’s very critical to have a planning section set up and to make sure we anticipate what might happen,” said Cleveland.

With 26 firefighters, 12 responding units and three supporting agencies, it took crews about an hour and a half to get the explosion under control. Cleveland said first responders and the public played major roles in helping distinguish the fire in a safe manner.

“We do have a pretty good network and good communications. Logistically we were in pretty good shape,” said Cleveland.

At a late-morning news conference, Midwest Industrial Asphalt said eight people were working at the time of the explosion. Three of the seven tanks on the ground were empty. The one tank that exploded was about 40 feet high and 24-feet in diameter. It was a 132,000 gallon tank, but only had 7,000 gallons of asphalt that is stored at 200-degrees to keep it liquid, Midwest Industrial Asphalt told News 8.

The roof blew off of the tank and landed on the northside of Midwest Fuels’ grounds. The company has a crew that is taking care of the cleanup from the explosion.

The La Crosse Fire Department said firefighters at Station 2 noticed thick black smoke northwest of the station and self-dispatched to the area. La Crosse Fire Chief Gregg Cleveland said crews were able to stop the runoff of chemicals and contain it to one tank. He said the tank had a mixture of 70-percent asphalt and 30-percent diesel.

Midwest Industrial Asphalt said an environmental specialist that they work with said except for the possibility of runoff of water used to put out the fire, there is no cause for concern about long-term environmental impact. People may have a slight headache or sore throat because of the fumes, but nothing long-lasting.

The 600 and 700 block of Sumner St. and the 300 blocks of Hagar St. were closed to traffic for most of the day.

The La Crosse Fire Department had issued a “Shelter in Place” order in the area between the La Crosse River north to Clinton Street, and from the Black River east to George Street. At about 8:20 a.m., La Crosse County Dispatch said the Shelter in Place order was canceled.

The La Crosse Fire Department said a “Shelter in Place” order means: ” A warning of an event where the public is recommended to shelter in place (go inside, close doors and windows, turn off air conditioning or heating systems, and turn on the radio or TV for more information). Examples include the release of hazardous materials where toxic fumes or radioactivity may affect designated areas. “

In an email to parents in the School District of La Crosse, Superintendent Randy Nelson said district administrators were “working diligently to monitor and address potential safety issues for our staff and students” after the explosion was reported. School will go on as scheduled and children are safe.

“As a continued precaution, however, we will be limiting outdoor activity today at Northside Elementary, Summit Elementary, and Logan Middle School,” Nelson wrote.

La Crosse Fire Dept. investigating cause of explosion in La Crosse

La Crosse Fire Dept. investigating cause of explosion in La Crosse