Footage showed firefighters trying to extinguish the blaze at the I. Schumann & Co. metal plant that makes copper, bronze and brass alloys. According to local media, an explosion at the plant during the afternoon of Feb. 20 produced a soaring pillar of smoke that sent fire engines rushing from across the Buckeye State.
At least one person was killed in the incident, whom the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office identified as 46-year-old Steven Mullins, a maintenance worker from North Ridgeville. Thirteen others suffered injuries from the molten metal and debris propelled by the explosion and rained down on neighboring buildings. The 13 injured individuals received medical treatment.
Local ABC affiliate News 5 Cleveland said the conflagration at the metal plant was largely extinguished by 3:39 p.m. of the same day. Captain Brian DiRocco of the Oakwood Village Fire Department later told the outlet: "The bulk of the fire is out, and responding firefighters are just working on a couple of hot spots. I'm sure there's a lot of people that work here that were in shock."
The fire captain had earlier inspected the plant before. While he found it generally safe, he remarked that the plant being a foundry makes it dangerous nonetheless.
"You are dealing with molten metal, so there's always an inherent danger," DiRocco remarked.
The explosion and subsequent fire that rocked the Bedford metal plant followed the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train containing vinyl chloride at East Palestine, Ohio. The Feb. 3 accident sparked fears of water supply contamination and forced residents to evacuate. Given the close proximity of the events, many have surmised the possibility of America being sabotaged from within. (Related: Another oil refinery, in Ohio, catches fire and has to be shut down.)
Matt Barkett, chief client officer for I. Schumann & Co., issued a statement saying that the cause of the explosion at the Bedford plant was "unknown." He also confirmed that workers were injured and that the facility suffered serious damage.
"Our efforts now are focused on supporting the first responders who came on scene quickly to help our employees. The safety and health of our employees is our top priority, and we commit to ensuring they receive the medical care they need. We will work alongside investigators in their search for answers as part of our commitment to Northeast Ohio, where we have been operating for more than 100 years." Barkett said in the statement.
Several residents also reported the explosion and metal debris subsequently falling back to Earth.
Business owner Matthew Wiggins said he heard a huge explosion, followed by what sounded like "large amounts of debris" hitting the roof. He found "smoldering rocks and molten metal" in his yard, and saw the burning plant right across where he was.
Meanwhile, Joe Sarconi saw the brick wall encircling the plant topple down and a metal beam fly beyond the road after the explosion. Cars and buildings around the factory were showered with bricks, with some suffering serious damage. Sarconi luckily survived as he was having lunch inside his car.
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