BURNSIDE — Four workers were seriously injured Friday in a flash fire at a Pulaski County plant that makes charcoal briquets, official said.
The four were burned on their upper bodies, but also suffered internal injuries from inhaling heated air and gases, said Tiger Robinson, public-safety director for Pulaski County.
"That's where the scary stuff comes in," Robinson said of the internal injuries.
Emergency workers flew all four by helicopter to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, Robinson said.
Never miss a local story.
The four were identified as Dana Mayrand, Terry King, Gayson Roberts and Jamie Dancy.
Mayrand and Roberts were in critical condition at the UK hospital Friday night. Darcy was in serious condition. King's condition was not available.
All four are local residents, said Tom Burkenpas, manager of the Kingsford Manufacturing Co. plant, where the fire happened.
The fire occurred shortly before noon at the plant near Burnside, in southern Pulaski County.
The fire happened on a catwalk atop an assembly of large, four-story metal silos where charcoal briquets are stored before shipping.
The four workers were using cutting torches and welding equipment to fix a conveyor.
A spark apparently ignited a small pile of particle-size pieces of charcoal, causing a brief flash of fire, Burkenpas said.
"It went poof. That was it," Burkenpas said. "Apparently we had a hazard that went unidentified."
Burkenpas said workers using a vacuum truck had cleaned the area earlier. The wind might have kicked up some charcoal residue, he said.
Burkenpas said the plant stresses safety. The plant is in its annual shutdown for maintenance, and each day begins with a safety meeting.
"They're good people. They take their jobs seriously," Burkenpas said of plant employees. "In this case, one got away from us."
Burkenpas said a few plant employees have received minor injuries this year, but it had been more than 700 days since the last injury serious enough to cause an employee to miss a day of work.
The four burned workers helped one another get down a set of stairs after the fire and walked to a nearby building.
Other employees had called 911 within 30 seconds of the fire, Burkenpas said.
Pilots landed several helicopters in a company parking lot and flew three of the workers to UK.
A fourth was first taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Medical Center in Somerset by ambulance but later flown to UK, Robinson said.
Kingsford is a division of Clorox. Workers at the plant in Pulaski County char sawdust into charcoal and pack it into briquets for use in barbecue grills.
It has been in operation 50 years and employs about 120.