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Update: Second Fire at AERT Explosion Site in Lowell

A hopper between two silos caught fire from heat of smoldering debris from Thursday's explosion, officials said.
Update (July 26, 8:00 a.m.):
LOWELL, AR - Crews are watering down another fire at the site of the Thursday morning's AERT explosion in Lowell.

Lowell Fire Chief Mike Morris says heat from Thursday's explosion caused a hopper between two silos to catch fire early Friday morning.

The fire is still smoldering and crews will continue spraying it with water throughout the day. More updates from officials are expected on the investigation later this afternoon.

Update (July 26, 7:30 a.m.):
LOWELL, AR - Crews continue to watch for hot spots Friday morning after Thursday's explosion at the Advanced Recycling and Environmental Technologies (AERT) plant in Lowell.

Since the explosion Thursday morning, AERT has issued a statement (see below).

AERT Lowell Plant Update (from Sarah Pore, AERT):
AERT experienced a silo rupture at 7:18 am at its Lowell, AR plastic recycling facility where the roof panels popped off, as designed, due to pressure build up in the plastic silo. Lowell fire and company officials were on site and the Lowell fire department responded, initially secured the area, and extinguished the material inside the silo at approximately 12:00 pm. At 3:50 pm the material reignited and Lowell Fire Department returned and extinguished the fire.
 
The Lowell plant was evacuated as a safety precaution and will resume normal operations shortly. There were no injuries related to this incident. The company will disassemble the silo, remove the material, and make appropriate repairs and safety inspections.
 
Additional information will be forth coming once the silo is inspected.


Update (July 25, 8:00 p.m.):
LOWELL, AR - Fire crews plan to spend the night watching over a silo after a Thursday morning explosion at the Advanced Recycling and Environmental Technologies (AERT) plant in Lowell.

The Springdale Fire Department said Lowell fire crews arrived around 7:30 after a silo exploded.

Lowell Fire Chief Mike Morris said AERT had not been using the silo since a fire last month and were awaiting repairs on it.

AERT uses fine sawdust and ground plastic to create composite wood products, and it all starts in Lowell.

"Their raw material is brought here," Morris says. "They begin the process here and then they ship it to other facilities."

Morris says Thursday's explosion has been building for about a month and a half.

"Their product spontaneously combusted sometime back," he says. "They've been working since that time with us on a mitigation plan to remove that silo, to disassemble it and remove any remaining fuel."

But after Thursday's events, that obviously didn't happen.

"Thank the good Lord nobody was hurt," Morris says. "There were no injuries reported. Everybody is accounted for, and everybody is safe at this time."

Crews can't cool down the base of the silo, and that means they can't leave.

"Our main task is to protect the facilities around it, particularly the remaining silo to the North," Morris says. "We've managed to reduce the temperatures within an acceptable range."

After the latest incident, Morris told AERT to step up their efforts.

"We have to maintain presence on scene and we have to maintain water cooling to the adjacent structure," he says. "You can only hold resources for so long."

The chief says the company plans to take down the silo Friday morning, and until then, at least two firefighters and a ladder truck will be there watching.

"We will be here until they can assure us that their mitigation plan is in place and has begun," he says.

The fire chief said surrounding businesses, including the post office, would be allowed to reopen but asked that people avoid the area.

A fire at another AERT plant in Springdale earlier this month killed one person and seriously injured two others.

Original story (July 25, 10:40 a.m.):
LOWELL, AR - Crews responded Thursday morning to an explosion at the Advanced Recycling and Environmental Technologies (AERT) plant in Lowell.

The Springdale Fire Department said Lowell fire crews arrived around 7:30 after a silo exploded. Lowell fire chief Mike Morris said AERT had not been using the silo since a fire last month and were awaiting repairs on it.

According to Morris, the fire was contained by 10:30 but crews planned to remain on scene until AERT teams could remove the burned materials.

The fire chief said surrounding businesses, including the post office, would be allowed to reopen but asked that people avoid the area.

Some residents reported via Facebook that they heard the blast and that it shook their houses.

Just last week a fire at the AERT plant in Springdale killed one worker and seriously injured two others.

There were no injuries reported in today's incident in Lowell.
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