Explosion at Independence County business leaves one injured

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An explosion resulting in a hot, toxic fire caused major damage Tuesday afternoon to  Rob Roberts Custom Gun Works on Kyler Road in the Southside area of Independence County. The incident has been determined accidental.

Office of Emergency Management Coordinator for Independence County Glen Willis said emergency fire and rescue units received the call around 2 p.m. with the Independence County Sheriff’s Department, Arkansas State Police and fire departments from Desha and Pleasant Plains responding. Also, at least one fireman from Floral and one from Batesville responded to the scene.

According to Southside Fire Chief Jeremy Loggains, one employee, Jesse Ponder sustained injures.  Ponder was taken to the local hospital for emergency treatment of burns and was later airlifted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for specialized care.

Willis said the fire took a lot of water. Much of that had to be transported to the site, and gathered from a Southside Water hydrant on Highway 167. Coordinator Willis said a lot of the company’s inventory, like hard-plastic shotgun cases, gave off a lot of heavy, toxic smoke and fumes.  Other inventory and supplies like gun oil and shellac made for a hot fire.

Willis said it took about 2 hours, 30 minutes to get control of the blaze.  Willis stated with the explosion, fire and water damage, he would not be surprised at a total loss. Due to the smoke from the types of materials burning, on-lookers were kept at a distance from the area of the burning building.

Southside Fire Chief Jeremy Loggains said a small tub of paint thinner was being moved in the area of two ovens and was accidentally dropped. The spilled chemical spread under an oven and ignited causing the explosion and fire.

Southside Fire Chief Jeremy Loggains extends his gratitude to all responding emergency agencies that assisted during Tuesday incident.

Rob RobertsPhoto Credit: Kati Herbert

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