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Firefighters investigate explosion

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Galax firefighters responded to the Turman hardwood flooring plant on Wednesday night, after a spark
ignited sawdust and caused a loud explosion, but only minor damage.

By SHAINA STOCKTON
Staff

A loud  "boom" was heard and a vibration was felt by those at least a mile from Turman Hardwood Flooring last Wednesday night, when an explosion took place on a conveyor lift outside the plant.
The explosion was determined to be the result of a combination of dust and sparks inside the conveyor system, according to Galax Fire Chief David Hankley, who was on the scene for the investigation.
There was minimal fire, described more as a “smoldering,” and damage was limited to the system itself.
Employees were at the scene at the time of the explosion, but no one was injured.
“We were only there for around 30 minutes,” said Hankley. “It sounded a lot worse than it actually was.”
Firefighter Chris Hennis said that people nearby felt the explosion. “It must have been a pretty loud boom,” he said.
Multiple reports of the explosion started coming in to the central 911 dispatch in Galax around 10:15 p.m., long before the tones set off at 10:45 p.m.
Hankley explained that occasionally a piece of metal will get into the system, which causes sparks. When these interact with the sawdust, it causes an explosion.
(This is the same process that causes explosions in sawdust silos at Galax’s furniture factories.)
Hankley noted that the business is not to blame for the incident. “They do a wonderful job with maintenance and upkeep,” he said.
The Galax Volunteer Fire Department’s ladder truck was under repair, so Hillsville firefighters offered the use of theirs, said Hennis. The truck was on its way when Galax determined that it was not needed. “We really appreciated their willingness to help,” Hennis said.
After a short investigation, the fire department determined that no action was needed.
The Turman plant was back up and running in just a few hours, Hankley said.