Just as change of command ceremonies finish, injuries to workers and firefighters at RAAP

236

Within minutes of the change of command ceremony at the Radford Army Ammunitions Plant that passed the flag from its most recent commander, LTC Scott to LTC Kazar, a fire erupted in a mix-house production building on the thousand acre facility.

In a traditional change of command ceremony with family and well-wishers, the flag was passed from LTC James Scott (facing away) as he finishes his two-year assignment to LTC Anthony Kazar (facing), the Radford Army Ammunition Plant’s new commander. Scott’s tenure was highlighted by its marked increase in community outreach and transparency, but marred by the death of a worker, whose life was remembered by a moment of silence. LTC Kazar, who comes with his family from Washington, DC, spoke of continuing that transparency and dedication to safety. Within minutes of his coming on board, a fire broke out in a nearby building.

The ceremony ended at 11:20. At 11:41 a.m. the onsite safety, health, and environment teams responded to the scene of the fire and local fire departments from Radford City, Christiansburg, and Fairlawn assisted.

The plant produces, which, propellant and explosives used in ammunition for the Department of Defense, has experienced accidents, but this was not the same building as the explosion and fire that occurred almost a year ago, June 11, that gravely injured two and killed one worker in a flash fire in a nitrocellulose drying facility.

In an email announcement, Communications Manager for RAAP contractor BAE Systems Christopher E. Finley wrote that one employee from the production building was transported the local hospital for burns and three plant firefighters were transported to the local hospital as a precautionary measure for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion.

It is unclear whether there are similarities to last year’s accident.

“We’re always worried about fire,” Justine Barati, chief of communications and congressional affairs said in a phone interview. “The cause is subject to investigation and that will be part of it.”

In an update shortly after one o’clock, the fire was reported to have been contained.

“All associated production remains suspended and all other personnel are confirmed safe,” she said.

Outgoing commander, LTC Scott, was lauded at the change of command ceremony and throughout his two-year tenure for his efforts to improve transparency between the community and the high-security facility, efforts LTC Kazar, as he begins his two-years, said he intended to continue the community outreach effort and the plant’s dedication to safety.

“The Army and the operating contractor, BAE Systems, are committed to carrying out a thorough investigation and are concerned about those affected. The health and safety of our workforce and community remains our top priority at all times,” the update said.