A La Habra explosion at a chrome-polishing plant on Tuesday that is suspected to have been caused by dust buildup has left 11 people injured, two of them critically. The Tuesday morning explosion rocked the California factory and sent people running from the ensuing intense waves of heat, reports the Orange County Register.
Eyewitnesses said that some of the 11 people injured in the explosion were hurt so badly that they had areas where skin was hanging off.
La Habra is a city of just over 60,000 people in Orange County, California, just 30 minutes east of Los Angeles.
The La Habra business where the explosion occurred, Gorilla Polishing, had been cited for violations as recently as 2011 by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The case was closed in January 2013 after Gorilla's Polishing paid $1,975 in fines in a settlement in January 2013.
Two people critically injured in the explosion had burns over 90 percent of their bodies. Some victims were being treated at the Orange County Burn Center at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana. Others were being treated at UCI Medical Center in Orange, said hospital spokesman John Murray.
The building was also extensively damaged by water, fire, and smoke damage.
About 50 firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department, which covers La Habra, responded to the fire that was caused by the explosion. The presence of hazardous materials were ruled out at the scene as the cause. Initial investigations suggested that lint and dust in a duct system, which can be flammable, might have caused the explosion and blaze.
Other factories have fallen prey to the dangerous combination of lint and oil. During World War II, a shirt factory in Tennessee that made military uniform shirts caught on fire. Almost 6,000 shirts went up in flames and there was tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Dust producing conveyors and machines can also be a fire hazard without enough proper ventilation.
Fire officials told the local Los Angeles NBC affiliate station that the La Habra fire was evacuated and surrounding roads were closed for investigation. They got the initial report from occupants of a nearby building.
As of Wednesday, the company had said little about the explosion or the injuries, except for some basic information about the immediate safety of staff. According to the company owner, every one of the 32 employees inside at the time of the La Habra explosion was accounted for.