RICE COUNTY — Thursday morning, workers at the Jacam chemical plant located between Lyons and Sterling were sent home when chemicals in one of the buildings caught fire. The blaze and smoke could be seen for miles.
A post on the company’s Facebook page responded to inquiries about the fire:
“We can confirm that there is a fire at one building at the facility. The entire facility has been evacuated, and all employees are safe and have been accounted for.
“Local fire departments are on site and carefully monitoring the situation. Jacam is fully committed to the safety of our operations. We will work with authorities to perform a thorough investigation of the incident and take any corrective actions needed.”
The fire was reported to Rice County 911 dispatch at 9:09 a.m. According to Laura Snyder, corporate communications manager for Jacam, there were no injuries reported, and all employees are accounted for and were sent home for the day.
One building was on fire, she said, and while a list of the chemicals involved was not forthcoming, Snyder said firefighters had been apprised of their nature, and that no inhalation hazard existed. Firefighters were monitoring the blaze to ensure it did not spread to other buildings but, according to Snyder, the plan was to allow the chemical fuel to burn itself out. A Hazmat team was also on site to monitor the situation.
The intersection of Avenue Q and K-14 was closed to 17th Road, but emergency vehicles and employees of the Kansas Ethanol plant were being allowed through, Snyder said. Megan Vincent, controller at Kansas Ethanol LLC, responded by email that employees were evacuated as a precautionary measure, and the site will remain evacuated until cleared for re-entry by EMS officials.
Thursday morning, it was unknown how the fire had started, but Snyder said a thorough investigation would follow and any corrective actions needed would be taken.
Fire departments from Lyons, Sterling, Alden, and Little River, as well as Hazmat units from Rice County and Hutchinson responded.
This story was updated at 2:26 p.m. with a response from Kansas Ethanol LLC Controller Megan Vincent.