Tonawanda News

The Town

January 31, 2014

Tonawanda Coke blast rocks area

Clean Air Coalition calls for full investigation into blast, fire

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — An explosion and small fire at the Tonawanda Coke facility shook the surrounding area Friday morning, but plant officials are insisting no one was injured and safety procedures worked correctly. 

Witnesses said they heard a loud boom and saw a large black plume of smoke coming from the coal-burning facility at about 11:55 a.m.

"It shook our building," Adam Randazzo, who works on Cooper Avenue about a mile from the coke-burning plant, said. "We are right near the I-190 and the I-290, and we actually thought a car fell off and hit our building. Then we saw a huge, huge black plume of smoke ... it was pretty wild."

Ellwood and Kenmore fire departments reported to the plant, located at 3875 River Road in the Tonawanda. Plant officials told the fire chiefs that an explosion had occurred due to a buildup of pressure. Firemen did not reach the scene of the incident. 

"The plant representative met us at the guard house, and we were satisfied that they didn't need our help," Ellwood Fire Chief Gary Stuff said.

After firefighters had left the scene, police suggested that the town's building department officials and Stuff meet with a plant representative to get more details. Later in the afternoon, Stuff and town officials met back at the plant. 

"There was some sort of mechanical failure and there was a buildup of gases in one of their coke ovens. It was a pretty big explosion," Stuff said. "But a relief device let out the smoke, it did what it was supposed to do."

The explosion destroyed a brick wall, but the facility is reporting that no injuries occurred. Mike Durkin, of Tonawanda Coke, informed police that a small fire had occurred as a result of the explosion. Stuff said he wasn't aware of a fire, and if there was one, plant personnel extinguished it on their own.

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