Winchester, VA Food Factory Explosion, Feb 1981


Winchester, Va. -- (AP)
An explosion at Rich Federal Foods Inc., 801 N. Kent St. today blew out windows, destroyed an asbestos ceiling and sent 20 workers to Winchester Memorial Hospital. There was no report of any serious injuries.
The mid-morning explosion occurred in the plant's blending room, where one employee was working.
The fire department evacuated about 20 workers from the plant because of their possible contact with the smoke that occurs when Potassium Bromate is heated to a temperature of more than 130 degrees.
Most of the workers were transported by private cars to the hospital where they were quickly treated and released.
The worker, whom the fire department could not identify, was not seriously injured in the blast.
Lt. Frank Wright of the Winchester Fire Department said the explosion occurred while bread was being mixed in a room measuring 30 feet by 30 feet.
The explosion blew the windows out of the room and collapsed its asbestos cieling from the inside.
Wright said the explosion was probably due to the build-up of pressure and heat in a mixing room lined with cinderblock.
"There were no flames as such as a result of the explosion," Wright said.
He said the fire department was concerned because of the release of toxic yellow-gray smoke from one of the ingredients in the bread mix. Potassium Bromate.
The chemical comprises 20 percent of the bread mixture, Wright said.
Five fire units where sent to the scene of the explosion at 9:56. There had been fear that the chemicals involved in the explosion could spread to a nearby industrial area that includes Frederick Douglas Elementary School.
This fear proved unfounded, a fire department spokesman said, because Potassium Bromate does not affect the water supply or spread through the air.
Rich Federal Foods employs about 250 persons in three shifts in making baked goods, bread and pastry fillings. A spokesman said the shift on duty this morning was the largest.

Winchester Star Virginia 1981-02-19