Explosion Rocks Louisiana Bomb Recycling Plant; 1,000-Plus People Evacuated From Schools, Jail

Published: Aug. 24, 2006 at 10:08 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2006 at 2:08 PM EDT
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(DOYLINE, La.) -- More than 10 explosions rocked a bomb recycling plant in northwestern Louisiana on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of an entire town and more than 400 prisoners from a nearby jail, authorities said.

No injuries or deaths were reported.

A fire at the Explo Systems Inc. site at Camp Minden triggered a major explosion involving two military bombs about 8:30 a.m., state police said. In the ensuing hours, more than 10 explosions -- some intense, some minor -- went off inside the plant as the fire continued to burn and thick smoke billowed from the plant, authorities said.

Authorities evacuated Doyline, a town of 800 people 22 miles east of Shreveport, closed two schools and emptied the Webster Parish jail, said Bobby Igo, chief deputy for the Webster Parish sheriff.

By mid-afternoon, the fire apparently was dying down as rain fell and authorities planned to let it burn itself out. Igo said emergency workers would not venture into the plant site until at least eight hours after explosions stopped.

"It's all safe and secure at this time," Igo said.

All of the employees inside the plant escaped after the fire broke out and before the first explosion, Igo said. The company employs 60 people, but it was not known how many were inside the plant, said Lt. Col. Carl Thompson, assistant commander of Camp Minden.

Two major highways near Camp Minden remained closed, although state police reopened Interstate 20 to traffic after about six hours.

Some 441 inmates from a Webster Parish jail two miles from the plant were taken aboard school buses and in vans to lockups in Bossier Parish and a state prison in nearby Homer, said Ed Baswell, a spokesman for the Bossier Parish sheriff's office.

About 600 students from Doyline High School and Union Elementary School were taken to nearby Sibley, the Webster Parish sheriff's office said.

The explosion was the second in recent weeks at Camp Minden, where large-caliber ammunition was produced for the military until it closed in 1994.

On Aug. 14, a fire and explosions rocked the Valentec Systems plant at Camp Minden, destroying about half the facility's buildings. No injuries were reported and the fire was allowed to burn itself out. That company makes battlefield flares for the military.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)