Allie Martin

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Video: Fire Rocks Biofuel Plant, Closes Part of Highway

NEW ALBANY, MISS. (WCBI) – A massive fire destroys a biofuel plant in Union County . The blaze and explosions kept a stretch of Highway 15 closed for most of the day.

Carl Harlin could only watch as three years of hard work went up in flames.

Harlin is general manager of JNS Biofuel, which was rocked by an explosion early wednesday morning. Luckily, both employees on duty got out safely.

“The house shook and the windows rattled, it was something that you could feel,” said Jim Staten, who lives a couple of miles north of JNS. He works right across the highway at the Union County Maintenance Shop.

Along with sending plumes of smoke hundreds of feet into the air, the blaze meant Staten, his co workers, employees at Master Bilt, and several nearby businesses could not go to work. Part of Highway 15 was closed as firefighters decided to let the blaze burn itself out.

“One of the chemicals that’s in here does not react well with water, it actually makes the fire bigger and can cause another explosion if it leaked out and we’re not for sure that it has leaked out yet,” said Curt Clayton, Union County Emergency Management Director.

A massive explosion, caught by our camera, and a firefighters cell phone, sent 40,000 gallons of fuel in every direction, sparking grass fires and destroying personal property, which the owners said was not insured.

Investigators were on hand making sure the air and water were safe.

“There’s been a small amount of runoff, but we have stopped the flow and will begin cleanup pretty soon on that. It smells like chicken fat, but it’s an oil. It can be cleaned up,” said Brad Ratcliff, with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

After the fire burns itself out, the cleanup process begins, contractors, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will come in, clean everything up and make sure it is all safe. Then company officials say they will rebuild, in the same spot.