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Cause of fire at Williston company unknown

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm •  Published: July 22, 2014

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — More than half a day after an industrial fire broke out in the North Dakota oil patch town of Williston, authorities still were unable to say what caused the massive blaze.

The fire, which started around midnight Monday and continued to burn late Tuesday afternoon, grew so intense it sent fireballs hundreds of feet into the air at a facility belonging to oil supply company Red River Supply.

At a news conference about 15 hours after the blaze began, Williston Fire Chief Jason Catrambone said officials couldn't identify which specific chemicals had burned at the site. He said firefighters were monitoring the blaze while letting it burn itself out.

"We are not overly concerned at this time with the current situation," the chief said, adding that the fire was "pretty well contained," though flare-ups were likely to continue.

He said firefighters were limiting the amount of water they were putting on the fire due to potentially volatile reactions some chemicals at the facility have with water and to minimize the further contamination.

The North Dakota Department of Health was monitoring air quality.

State hazardous-chemical records show several flammable chemicals were on Red River Supply's property. The company did not immediately respond to interview requests but issued a brief statement that thanked emergency responders and said the fire's cause had yet to be identified.

A large plume of smoke that rose above Williston early Tuesday was a primary safety concern for the town's residents. Williams County Emergency Manager Mike Hallesy said it's not clear what particulates were in the plume of smoke, but that the cloud did not blow toward the city.

Local law enforcement officers cordoned off a half-mile area around the site, diverting traffic. Officials said there were very few residences in the mostly industrial land that fell within that area.

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