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Firefighters reflect on plant explosion response

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GEISMAR - Emergency responders in Ascension Parish today reflected on what happened during those first few minutes of the response to the Geismar chemical plant explosion Thursday.

"People were literally running for their lives, down Highway 3115, and it was chaos at that moment," said Nathaniel Stephens, Geismar's Fire Chief.

Nearly every first responding agency in the area of Williams Olefins plant was called to the scene after the explosion early that morning to help triage the dozens of workers injured during the blast.

Geismar's volunteer fire department was one of the first on the scene, but other agencies responded quickly as well.

"It was catastrophic, when you see flames, you see the black smoke rolling, you see fireballs in the sky, it was a very serious event," said Justin Ellis, a 12-year veteran of East Iberville Volunteer Fire Department.

"When we pulled up the contractors were trying to wave us in, we stopped asked them what they wanted the fire department to do, they advised us to get to the patients, take care of the patients, start doing triage and lining up the people to get them out of the area, and to the hospital," said John Talley, Fire Chief of East Iberville Volunteer Fire Department.

It was the training, they hoped they'd never have to use, that helped many of the firefighters get through trying event.

"It's like a scene out of movie, to see people running for their lives, to see the flames in the background, it's kind of unbelievable, and all you can do is count on your experience and your training," said Chief Stephens.

Multiple agencies responded to aide in the triage of patients, but the fire was controlled and eventually put out by workers at the plant.


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