Nearly 6,000 residents are evacuated over fears of explosion due to fire at fertilizer plant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

At least 6,000 residents in the North Carolina city of Winston-Salem have been asked to evacuate the area during an active fire at the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant.  Winston-Salem Fire Department Battalion Chief Patrick Grubbs said at a news conference on Tuesday “We’re asking everyone to stay out of this area,” as officials told residents within a 1-mile radius of the plant to evacuate.  In addition to fears of a potential explosion, Grubbs also said that air quality in the area would likely be poor in the midst of the fire: “As the sun rises, there’s going to be a lot of smoke.”

Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo stressed, “We’re asking everyone to stay out of this area. Now is the time to get out”.  With 600 tons of combustible ammonium nitrate stored at the site, the risk of an explosion would remain through Wednesday.  Mayo added, “We’ve got about a 36-hour window where that explosion potential exists.”

According to officials, the fire broke out on Monday evening; no injuries were reported as of Tuesday.  In addition to the evacuations, the blaze also forced the nearby Wake Forest University to cancel classes for Tuesday.The school opened up several sites for faculty, staff or students who are evacuating and need somewhere to go.

Authorities have not yet determined what caused the fire. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Tuesday that its investigators would be assisting local firefighters.

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