Minor explosion causes injuries at Polaris

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
In the light of day, one wouldn't guess two of the region's fire departments had rushed to the Spirit Lake Polaris plant, but at about 9:30 p.m. Monday reports were received of fire at the factory.
Photo by Seth Boyes

SPIRIT LAKE Paint fumes posed a challenge after a minor explosion which injured one employee Monday night at the Polaris Indian Motorcycle plant in Spirit Lake.

Spirit Lake Fire Chief Pat Daly said an explosion occurred at about 9:30 p.m. in the facility's painting room called a paint kitchen and was followed by subsequent fires.

"They had multiple alarms going off when we got there," Daly said.

The employee was taken to Lakes Regional Healthcare with minor injuries, but Daly could not confirm the injuries were burn-related. Jess Rogers, a spokesperson for Polaris, confirmed the injured party was an employee who was in the area at the time of the fire. She said the employee has since been released from the hospital. Daly said initial evidence showed the explosion was small.

"It was a minor explosion, because it didn't blow the walls out of the room, and they're made to do that," Daly said. "If there's a major explosion, the walls are made to blow out. It didn't do that."

Daly said the building's sprinkler system had been triggered, which began carrying the flammable paint over the area's confinement walls. The chief said Polaris employees attempted to contain the leaking paint, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources had to be informed of the situation. Daly said the situation was under control quickly after arriving on scene and the focus shifted to fume ventilation.

"We had Spirit Lake First Responders and Ambulance standing by," Daly said. "We also called in Arnolds Park/Okoboji (Fire and Rescue). We had so much vapor inside that room, we wanted to make sure we had enough man power in case something went badly."

Daly said the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, and the scene will be studied further after the majority of the cleanup effort is complete. Rogers said Polaris is also investigating the incident.

"We want to thank our team who acted quickly and in accordance with our safety protocols, and the local fire departments for their fast response," Rogers said.

Crews left the scene after approximately two hours Monday night. At that point, production decisions were back in the hands of Polaris.

"Damage from the fire was minimal and operations have resumed," Rogers said.

The Spirit Lake Fire Department was assisted by Spirit Lake First Responders, Spirit Lake Ambulance, Arnolds Park/Okoboji Fire and Rescue and Dickinson County Emergency Management.

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