Blue Rhino propane plant cleanup continues in Tavares


TAVARES, Fla. – Crews have been out at the Tavares Blue Rhino propane plant where an explosion occurred last month trying to clear away the tanks, slowly and carefully.

Company officials from Blue Rhino say it could be at least another two months before all the 53,000 propane tanks are hauled away and the facility reopened.

Frontloaders scooped up piles of exploded propane tanks and pour them into a Dumpster, as nearby workers sorted the tanks.

As contractors begin cleaning up the thousands of exploded propane tanks, owner of a neighboring business Duane Siebert tells Local 6 he talked to the president of Blue Rhino.

"I said I thought you had horns like the devil because we haven't heard hide nor hair from anybody over there," Siebert said.

But as Siebert talked to President Tod Brown, he learned Brown had flown to Tavares immediately after the explosion to meet with the injured workers and provide them with debit cards to cover expenses.

"He told me what they were doing for them which was really amazing," Siebert said. "They're taking care of those people.  It really made me feel good they're doing what they did."

Siebert, whose business was damaged by the flying propane tanks, gave the Blue Rhino president his safety suggestions. Siebert tells Local 6 he thinks the propane tanks should have been stacked on fireproof metal racks instead of flammable plastic pallets.

"When you've got the plastic acting as kindling its like starting a barbecue grill," Siebert said. "You put the flammable stuff like the newspaper on the bottom."

Siebert said he thinks the tanks should be stored under awnings with overhead sprinklers like the kind that protected propane tanks on Blue Rhino's loading dock.

Siebert said he also asked Brown to install a fireproof wall around the property.

"He didn't say 'Hey Duane, that's a great idea, let me write it down.' But it sounded like he was legitimately interested in exploring anything that would prevent this from happening again," said Siebert.

Tavares city officials estimate the explosions caused $3 million in damage, but Blue Rhino officials said they aren't ready to determine the amount.

The State Fire Marshal is still working to determine what sparked the blasts.

Local 6 has also learned one worker critically injured in the explosion has been released from the hospital, with four others remaining.