Part of Marion KS was evacuated for around three hours Thursday during a fire at a grain elevator.
Thursday’s fire at Cooperative Grain & Supply didn’t result in an explosion, but officials had reason to be cautious. Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft said Third and Fourth streets were evacuated from Main Street south to the city limits as a precaution against the risk of a volatile dust explosion.
When fine dust, such as from grain, is suspended in the air, even a small ignition source – a static spark or overheated bearing – can cause the dust to burn so fast it explodes in a fireball. An average of 10.6 grain dust explosions are reported annually in the United States, resulting in an average of 1.6 deaths and 12.6 injuries, Oklahoma State University associate professor Carol Jones wrote in “Preventing Grain Dust Explosions.”
Marion City Administrator Roger Holter said the fire started in the “pit” where grain trucks unload their grain. A maintenance worker was working on the conveyor that moves grain from the pit into the elevator when some grain dust caught fire.
Holter said the worker had the presence of mind to drop flat on the floor, below the fire, so he wasn’t burned, but he did require treatment for smoke inhalation. Earlier in the day Holter mistakenly said nobody had been injured.