Shortly before noon on May 4, 1988 a
series of explosions rattled the plant and the surrounding area. The blasts
killed two employees and injured more than 300 others.
Company officials estimated about 4.5 million tons of ammonium perchlorate were
present at the plant at the time of the explosions. Nearly all of it was
destroyed by the explosions and fires. A nearby natural gas pipeline was
ruptured by the detonations resulting in large flames that were visible miles
Members of the closest responding units from Henderson Fire Department suffered
cuts when their engines’ windows shattered as they approached the scene.
The nearby Kidd & Co. marshmallow plant was nearly destroyed and numerous
homes, schools, and businesses suffered varying degrees of damage. Property
damage to buildings other than the plant was estimated to be $74 million.
CCFD Fire Investigators determined that sparks from a welder’s torch ignited
the ammonium perchlorate. Poor housekeeping contributed to the fire and the
The first explosion was the smallest and provided a warning to company employees
to evacuate the complex. Two more detonations obliterated the property, but by
then, all but two management members of the company had escaped.
After the explosion, the plant was renamed Western Electrochemical Co. and
relocated to southern Utah. It operates now in Iron County, approximately 14
miles northwest of Cedar City, Utah.