Three people were hospitalized Monday after a tanker truck exploded at an asphalt plant in Glenville.
Emergency crews from across the area responded shortly after 1 p.m., when a truck being loaded with a mix of kerosene and asphalt caught fire and exploded. Three workers suffered burns, though the extent of their injuries was not disclosed Monday afternoon.
During the heating of a valve on the truck, the vapors ignited, causing the fire and ensuing explosion, officials said. The incident is still under investigation.
The explosion happened at Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions, which is located along the Mohawk River a short distance off Freemans Bridge Road. The material being loaded at the site is used for road construction.
A call came in at 1:08 p.m. for the fire, said Gregg Petricca, chief of Thomas Corners Fire Department in Glenville. Within the hour, dozens of first responders were on the scene, including crews from Alplaus, Scotia, Stratton Air National Guard Base, Schenectady County, Rotterdam and New York state.
Three workers on the site were conscious when they were taken to area hospitals, with one being transported by helicopter, Petricca said.
The work being done prior to the explosion was routine, Petricca said. The fire did not spread to any other part of the business, he said.
Mohawk Asphalt and Emulsions did not return calls on Monday seeking comment.
Ryan Glennon from Guilderland works for an Albany-based company and was picking up some material at the site, he said. Glennon said he was about 10 feet from the truck when he heard another worker shout “fire,” before running away.
Glennon got into his pickup truck and drove off the site just before the explosion, he said. As he called 911, he said, he could hear people screaming at the site.
“It was just a big orange cloud, basically,” he said, estimating there were about a dozen people, total, working at the business at the time.
The blast was just a few hundred feet from the construction site of the new Waters Edge Hotel.
The construction site superintendent recalled hearing a few explosions nearby, then feeling a blast of heat on his back. In the aftermath of the explosion, construction workers stood outside recording video and taking photos with their phones as black smoke billowed into the air.
The hotel construction site was shut down at around 1:30 p.m. for the day as a precaution, the superintendent said.
One witness was working at the nearby Elmo’s Auto Body shop along Freemans Bridge Road and recalled hearing four separate explosions.
“Trucks are in and out of here all the time,” he said. “It’s just a normal deal.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sent crews to the scene as well, though Petricca said it was only as a precaution. National Grid also had workers on the site after the explosion because of nearby power lines, though Petricca said power in the area wasn’t affected.
According to its website, Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions began making highway construction materials in 1975. According to Asphalt magazine, asphalt emulsion is a liquid asphalt cement emulsified in water, creating a material that is designed to eventually break down, or revert to asphalt and water.
The Glenville plant has a total storage capacity of 2.9 million gallons of asphalt emulsions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dispatched inspectors to the scene after the explosion, a spokesman said. The organization will be determining whether there were any violations in worker safety leading up to the explosion. The asphalt company has not been cited previously for OSHA violations.
Due to the nature of the site, Petricca said crews had an idea of what they were getting into upon arrival.
“We’ve pre-planned for this place, and we know what’s in here and the chemicals involved,” he said.
Emergency responders had shut down Freemans Bridge Road between Maxon Road Extension and Sunnyside Road just before 2 p.m. to allow the medical helicopter to land. The road was reopened around 2:30 p.m.
First responders and investigators remained on the site until after 3 p.m., though several fire crews had left by then.
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.