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At North Olive and Front streets, just four blocks from the plant, Chemcentral employee Bill Rohde emerged, shaken, from the complex. He said the initial blast knocked him off his feet.
Rohde said he had no idea how the fire began.
He said chemicals stored at the facility included mineral spirits, and numerous other more toxic chemicals. He said he was concerned that nearby rail cars filled with chemicals would also catch fire or explode.
Rohde said the worldwide company, which has been referred to in lawsuits as the world’s largest privately held distributor of industrial chemicals, had numerous stationary tanks at its local facility.
He said he was anxious about his nine co-workers at the plant, but he could not get close enough to check on their welfare. Soon after, authorities established a half-mile safety perimeter around the plant. A Kansas City police officer warned Rohde, “If you want to return to work here someday, you better move a half mile away.”