Tyler welding business explodes, Smith County officials investigating
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A fire that caused multiple explosions on Highway 271 at Tyler Welders Supply will be allowed to burn out, according to both Smith County and Tyler officials.
The blaze is expected to take at least another hour to burn out, Smith County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Darrell Coslin said during a 4:30 p.m. press conference on Tuesday.
Massive flames and frequent explosions came from the Tyler Welders Supply building in the 3500 block of Highway 271, the result of welding tanks blowing up at the scene. Authorities are still on scene checking on the unexploded tanks.
Coslin said that the repeated explosions caused shrapnel to be shot into the air as acetylene tanks went off. Coslin said that no more explosions were heard for about 20 minutes prior to the press conference.
Coslin also said that allowing the fire to burn itself out should cause less of a need for hazmat cleanup after the fire is out. Smith County Sheriff's Office drones have been in the air over the scene, Coslin said, to watch for spreading of the fire and to see when the fire seems to be dying out. Coslin said firefighters have not entered the scene of the fire.
Coslin confirmed that there were 20 to 30 employees at the business at the time the fire started, and all were able to get out without injuries. He said that employees say a delivery truck had arrived at the business and is suspected to have somehow set off the fire. The truck has been located and Coslin says that the driver will be interviewed as they work to discover how the fire happened.
Tyler Police Department and Fire Department have now handed off the investigation to Smith County Fire Marshall and Sheriff's Office, since the explosion and fire took place just outside the Tyler city limits.
Roads have reopened to traffic Tuesday night.
Evacuations are in effect for a half-mile radius surrounding Tyler Welders Supply. Evacuees are going to Pine Springs Baptist Church, at 2155 County Road 334 in Tyler. The church's phone number is 903-592-0218. The local Red Cross is on standby in case further shelter is needed for those evacuated.
7OnScene: Welding business goes up in flames in north Tyler
Kelly Nellenback, with Leon's Signs Inc. spoke with KLTV. She said debris started falling on employees' cars outside the business. Leon's Signs is fairly close to Tyler Welder Supply. Nellenback said employees thought ash was falling on their car but upon inspection realized that little pieces of plastic were falling from the sky. Nellenback says the metal buildings in the back of their main building at Leon's signs were rattling every few seconds with every explosion.
Smith County, Tyler, and Winona Fire Department responded, as well as various other volunteer fire departments.
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