DIXON – No one was injured in an explosion caused by a fire that was called in at 3:24 a.m. Friday at Crop Production Services, 1076 Corregidor Road in Dixon, Amboy Fire Chief Jeff Bryant said.
The fire at the retail ag chemical dealer now known as Nutrien Ag Solutions prompted an evacuation and closed Sterling Road up to U.S. Route 30 for about 4 hours. The evacuation order was lifted at 6:30 a.m.
"At that time, the fire had been contained and we knew that no chemicals had been released into the building," Bryant said at a noon news conference at the Amboy fire station.
As a precautionary measure, the Lee County Sheriff's Department evacuated about 50 residents within about 10 minutes from a small area between 1176 and 1200 Corregidor Road. About 30 people were evacuated from Allied-Locke, a neighboring manufacturer in the Green River Industrial Park. Work continued as usual for the next shift that came in at 7 a.m.
The cause of the fire is being investigated, and no information was available today.
The fire was contained to a storage building, one of three the company has at the Dixon site. The only chemicals in the building – herbacides – were in stainless steel tanks.
"Only two products in the building were flammable and both were contained by the vessels," said Bill Norden, a Nutrien manager based at the Walnut and Manlius facilities.
A secondary containment barrier also exists at the site that blocks the flow of chemicals to the surrounding area. Although some of the chemicals were flammable, none were explosive.
"There were some [propane] tanks there, so we think that's probably what exploded," Bryant said.
The main concern of the first responders was containing the smoke until they knew whether the tanks had held up. The 11 agencies on the scene had plugs and sandbags ready to cover up any holes.
When firefighters were comfortable that no chemicals had escaped, the fire was allowed to burn out on its own – a decision based on environmental and economic considerations. The firefighters used fewer than 100 gallons of water on the fire.
"The more water that is used, the greater the chances for doing permanent damage to the land and wildlife," Bryant said. "More water also means a bigger cleanup that could cost millions of dollars, and we don't want any more businesses leaving the area."
On behalf of Nutrien, Norden apologized to the community for any inconveniences and stress caused by the fire. The cost of the damage is not yet known, but the storage building was deemed a total loss. Business will continue at the other buildings and the company will keep its presence in Dixon.
"We will definitely rebuild at this facility," Norden said. "The agencies will get in there and determine when cleanup can begin, which will probably be in a couple of days."
The tanks must be carefully inspected for cracks before they can be moved.
The fire chief said a good working relationship with the business allowed the first responders to quickly evaluate possible hazards and have a good handle on the situation in less than an hour.
Crop Production Services was the retail arm of Agrium since it was acquired by the ag giant in 1994. Agrium has since merged with rival Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, Canada to form Nutrien. That deal closed at the beginning of the year and CPS was rebranded as Nutrien Ag Solutions, effective July 1. CPS has another site in Amboy.