Turpentine tank explodes at Jacksonville plant

North Lane Avenue closed as a precaution

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Hazmat teams worked to clean up after a chemical explosion Saturday morning at the International Flavors and Fragrances plant on the Westside.

People working across the street from the plant at 2051 North Lane Ave. said the blast was so strong, their walls shook.

"I was at work and heard a loud noise and I walked outside and I saw smoke," Eli Kervin said. "And then I saw the fire trucks and police cars and everybody and I tried to see what happened."

Jacksonville Fire-Rescue said a 250,000 gallon tank of turpentine products, a little less than half full, caught on fire, causing a vapor explosion. Sixty firefighters and hazmat crews worked to put the fire out.

JFRD said they still aren't sure what triggered the explosion.

"Turpentine, as you know, is a product from pine trees and stuff, but it is flammable and under high heat conditions like today, you will have a vapor and vapor can flash," JFRD Chief of Operations Chip Drysdale said.

There were workers on top of the tank doing welding work when the tanks exploded, but they weren't hurt. The only damage done was to the roof and surrounding trees.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office kept the street blocked off for hours following the explosion, but JFRD said it was done as a precaution and no one in the community was in any real danger. Firefighters said no one had to be evacuated and vapor exposure was not a concern.

"Turpentine is not something you want to eat or drink but the fumes themselves are not particularly nauseous," Drysdale said.

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