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Explosions, fire at N.M. biofuel plant prompt evacuation order

Biofuels
Explosions, blaze at New Mexico biofuel facility leads to evacuation order

About 1,000 people within half a mile of an explosive fire at a New Mexico biofuel production facility were told to evacuate Tuesday as thick, black smoke rose from the site.

A Dona Ana County news release said the fire and several small explosions were reported about 9 a.m. at the Rio Valley Biofuels facility in Anthony. The county said the facility handles large quantities of methanol, glycerin, sodium methylate and hydrochloric acid. The chemicals are used in the process of turning vegetable oils and other used oils into biodiesel fuel for area businesses.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at Gadsen High School after the county declared a hazardous-materials emergency. Authorities said there was a moderate threat to surrounding people and structures.

Company officials did not respond to emails seeking comment. A county spokesman, Kelly Jameson, said authorities haven't determined whether Rio Valley Biofuels employees were on site when the blaze broke out because they haven't been able to contact an owner.

Authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries and that the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Jameson said firefighters had contained an area around the blaze and were letting the fire burn itself out.

Anthony -- with about 9,000 people -- is just north of the Texas border, between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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