MX Missile Plant Building in Utah Burns; Four Killed
Fire fueled by 80,000 pounds of rocket propellant today engulfed a Morton Thiokol Inc. building where part of the MX missile is made, killing four workers and critically burning a fifth, company officials said.
Rocky Raab, spokesman for the company, said the fire broke out at 6:20 a.m. at the plant in a building where the first stage of the missile is manufactured.
Raab initially said the blaze erupted during removal of casting equipment from a first-stage motor loaded with solid rocket fuel, but later said the cause was not known. He said four workers were killed and one was injured, and the building was destroyed.
All the fuel burned before company fire crews extinguished the blaze, Raab said.
“We heard a concussion and we noted some orange light in the snow all around us,” an unidentified company employee told KSL radio. “When I first saw it I thought, ‘I can’t believe it.’ Then we just wanted to get away from it. It was incredible. It totally engulfed the building. You couldn’t see the building for the fire.”
Tom Russell, vice president of corporate development, said the fire was in a “strategic area” four miles northwest of the plant administration building. It was about five miles north of Test Bay T-24, where Morton Thiokol conducted its second full-scale test firing of the redesigned space shuttle booster Dec. 23.