International Paper Plant Explosion | Florida | Update 1

Cantonment, Florida

Incident Summary

An explosion rocked International Paper’s Pensacola Mill located on the 300 block of Mucogee Road, about 20 miles of Pensacola on Sunday night.  Debris was said to be black liquor, which is described as “the waste product from the kraft process when digesting pulpwood into paper pulp removing lignin, hemicelluloses and other extractives from the wood to free the cellulose fibers. (Source: Wikipedia)

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As firefighters were working to rescue an Operator, they found there was about three feet of the black liquid next to the Scale house but were able to extricate him quickly.  His condition was unknown at the time of this post.

Potential Exposures

Fire crews began responding to medical calls in the community near the Mill, where residents were also reporting ash on cars and on roofs of residences. People were told to stay indoor at all costs.

Decon a Must

Specific instructions were given to firefighters to make sure to use copious amounts of water when rinsing (Decon) off their fire apparatus, stand back and make sure that the “product” did not get on to them.  Someone from Public Safety would be coming around to the various stations for inspection and make sure no one has been exposed to the caustic product.

Police Officers were said to be driving back and forth inside the perimeter where Fire assumed was closed off but crews told them not the case. Command sounded concerned as they worked to get people in contact with Police as they were completely unaware of what they were driving through.  A Decon site was set-up to have them immediately rinse off their vehicles but told to stay inside for fear of being exposed.

Area Closures

Portions of Hwy 29, South of International Paper’s plant to Northern side up to the Shell Station.

The radius of the area where the product was said to have reached was approximately 75  yards to off of 95A to Hwy29 and to have reached near the County’s Fire Station #4.  Command was concerned with drivers stopping on Highway 29 and getting out of their cars.

Additionally, a fire crew reported the product had gone up in the air approximately 30 feet on top of light, power and telephone poles and sticking to them as well.

Fire crews were sent out to the area to verify the boundaries.

Product Very Caustic

The “Product”  was said to be fiber with black liquor and Firefighters were in the process of bringing back some examples to Command.  It is said to be very caustic.

Back in Service

Firefighters went back into service fairly quickly, but Command made sure they all knew to copiously used high amounts of water to rinse off their apparatus and to stand back.  They wanted to make sure they did not get any of this product on them.


None was reported.


There was no known cause at the time of this post but a Fire Prevention Officer was on-scene.

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