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Days after grain bin explosion, a fire still smolders at South Peoria ethanol plant

Tim Shelley
Damaged silos could be seen from MacArthur Highway on the morning of Friday, May 13, 2022. A grain bin explosion rocked the BioUrja ethanol plant the night before, leaving two injured and millions of dollars in damages.

Fire is still burning in a damaged silo at the BioUrja ethanol plant in South Peoria several days after a grain bin explosion damaged the complex.

Peoria Interim Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger said extinguishing the remaining fire is tricky - and hazardous.

"We're trying to explore options right now. We have a couple different options we're kicking around," said Sollberger. "But basically, either we have to pierce the side of the silo and inject water, or put water from the top and have it flow down the silo. Both of them are dangerous."

The explosion last Thursday night destroyed one silo and damaged three others. Two people suffered non life-threatening injuries in the explosion. The fire briefly resurged on Friday.

As of Monday morning, dark gray smoke was still emanating from one of the damaged silos. The smell of smoke lingered in the area around MacArthur Highway and Washington streets, near the plant.

The Cedar Street Bridge was shut down in both directions at approximately 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, while Washington Street remains open to normal traffic.

"So something's burning in there," said Sollberger. "We don't feel we have an immediate danger, but that being said, the only way that they're going to take these silos down is whatever's burning inside of there has to be extinguished."

Sollberger said a third party will soon begin aerial monitoring of the area around the plant. He said residents should be confident the fire department and BioUrja are getting the situation under control.

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Updated: May 16, 2022 at 3:15 PM CDT
Traffic on the Cedar Street Bridge has been closed in both directions as of 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.