May 15, 2010 in Nation/World

Ammunition flies at deadly plant fire

Lisa Rathke Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Colebrook, N.H., firefighters spray water on a fire at a gun and ammunition manufacturing plant Friday.
(Full-size photo)

COLEBROOK, N.H. – Multiple explosions at a gun and ammunition manufacturing plant in far northern New Hampshire on Friday killed two people, shook buildings blocks away, filled the sky with black smoke and forced the evacuation of dozens of homes.

State Fire Marshal Bill Degnan confirmed the deaths at the MDM Muzzleloader building in Colebrook. He said the two victims, along with another person who suffered minor injuries, were the only people in the building at the time.

The blasts started just after 1 p.m., said Mia West, Colebrook’s public information officer. She said firefighters initially were unable to get close enough to fight the blaze because ammunition was still going off more than two hours later.

At Colebrook Elementary School, paraprofessional Saralyn Boutin at first thought she was hearing thunder, but after the second boom, “I was hanging on to the desk.”

Boutin, 28, said some of the students in the eighth-grade classroom were crying. Hours later, she was heading to her mother’s house to spend the night because her own street remained blocked off. Some of her neighbors’ homes had windows blown out, she said.

Degnan said the fire continued to burn more than four hours after the explosion was reported, and that it was too soon to determine the cause.

“We’re just getting into the investigation and trying to determine the details,” he said.

About 40 nearby homes were evacuated, though some residents were allowed to return home by late Friday evening. Some reported hearing the explosions up to a mile and a half away, West said.

Colebrook is about 140 miles north of the capital city of Concord and 10 miles from the Canadian border.

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