An ammonium nitrate expert has helped determine that enough of the chemical at the Weaver Fertilizer plant has been burned up for firefighters to begin cooling operations there.

At an afternoon press conference, Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo said overnight they applied roughly 1,000 gallons of water per minute on the smoldering piles and were successful in cooling them. The railcar adjacent to the facility and its 90 tons of chemicals were found to be intact. Two nozzles are now positioned directly above in case the railcar becomes threatened.

Seventy-two hours into the event, Mayo, still wearing his gear and visibly exhausted, said he's been heartened by letters and calls of support from around the country.

“It was reassuring when the ammonium nitrate subject matter expert arrived yesterday and I said, 'okay,' and I got him off to the side and I said, ‘Shoot me straight,'" said Mayo. “If you'd been here at eight p.m. Monday night, what would you have done differently?' And he said, ‘Absolutely nothing.'"

"You know I get a little bit emotional about it," said Mayo as he fought back tears. "He said, ‘The decisions you all have made are exactly what we would have done if you'd had me here the whole time.'”

The current plan is to use drone footage and thermal imaging to locate remaining hotspots — piles of tons of product with the highest heat signatures — and sweep the entire site until firefighters are satisfied that they've extinguished all the fire. Mayo says it's difficult to say how long that may take but adds an additional week wouldn't surprise him.

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.