Tuesday afternoon, just before 5 p.m., many bystanders heard or felt what they described as a ‘bomb going off’ on the north side of Lancaster. Despite the power the cause of that noise and shaking came from, and a fire that resulted from that explosion, quick work by workers at Bemis Performance Packaging, as well as a fast response from area emergency responders led to minimal damage, and minimal injury.
Lancaster Fire and EMS departments were dispatched at 5:02 p.m. on Oct. 21 for a report of a press explosion and fire at the Bemis Performance Packaging facility at 1309 Bemis Road. The cause of the initial explosion remains under investigation. The initial explosion ignited a sizeable solvent fire in a press.
First on the scene were members of the Lancaster Police Department, who quickly rerouted traffic off of STH 61 around the plant, and made room for emergency responders. Lancaster Fire and EMS were soon joined by their counterparts from Fennimore, who were also dispatched as soon as the initial call came in.
Damage assessment is currently underway and an estimate is not yet available. There are moderate damages to a portion of the facility and extensive damage to one press.
But it could have been much worse.
At a post-incident discussion, Lancaster Fire Chief Steve Braun commended Bemis employees for their quick and effective response to the incident, noting that the fire had been mostly controlled by employees by the time the department arrived on scene. “The actions of the quick-thinking employees contained a fire that could have been much worse,” Braun said in a press release.
And despite an explosion that could be heard and felt from the better part of a mile away from the factory, there was only one individual who was transported from the scene with minor injuries. That person was released from Grant Regional Health Center later in the evening Tuesday.
Fire Department officials will be working with Bemis on Wednesday to continue the investigation into the cause of the explosion.