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‘Flash fire’ injures three at Radford arsenal

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Three Radford arsenal employees are in a North Carolina hospital after being injured Monday night in a flash fire, a Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RFAAP) spokeswoman says.

The men were injured around 7:30 p.m. when nitrocellulose material combusted during a drying process and produced a flash fire, the arsenal said in a statement released Monday evening. The fire was extinguished and contained at 8:11 p.m.

The men were first transported to New River Valley Medical Center and then transferred to Wake Forest Hospital’s burn center, according to emergency radio traffic at the time of the incident.

The arsenal has not identified the injured workers and declined to provide their hometowns or conditions.

However, Facebook posts identified them as Dakota Grimmett, Andrew Goad and Travis Mitchell. Representatives of Wake Forest Hospital said Tuesday afternoon Mitchell was in stable condition in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Grimmett and Goad were both in critical condition in the burn unit.

According to radio traffic, the initial call for assistance indicated a building was on fire with one man still inside.

In a Tuesday afternoon update, arsenal spokeswoman Justine Barati, director of Public and Congressional Affairs, Joint Munitions Command, in Illinois, said the facility in which the flash fire occurred assists with production of propellant used in Department of Defense ammunition.

She said an investigation into the incident is continuing.

Brian Gathright, Radford’s BAE Systems vice president and general manager, said, “The health and safety of our employees, our neighbors, and the local community remains our highest priority, therefore all related production operations are currently suspended,” said.

The afternoon press release indicated production will resume once the facility is deemed safe.

Barati advises employees contact their manager, supervisor or line leader before reporting to work to receive specific instructions for their area.

Lt. Col. James “Jim” Scott, Radford Commander, expressed concern for the injured employees and reminded the public of the risks they take in protection of the military.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the employees who were injured last night.  Making ammunition is dangerous work, and our employees risk their
lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” he said.

“Safety is of primary concern, so we minimize the number of individuals exposed to safety hazards while producing propellant. Because of our safety procedures, we were able to minimize and contain the fire to one area within the plant,” he added.

Barati confirmed Tuesday morning the arsenal activated its mutual aid protocol, calling upon emergency services from outside the facility to respond.

Fairlawn Fire Department and REMSI responded from Pulaski County. Others included Radford City Fire and Rescue and Christiansburg emergency medical services.

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