Today in fire history: explosions in furniture manufacturing facility kill two

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Nov 20, 2011

On Sunday, November 20, 1994, a series of explosions occurred at a furniture manufacturing facility in Lenoir, North Carolina.  The incident killed two, injured four, and destroyed most of the facility.  Based on NFPA’s analysis, three potential sources of ignition were identified:

  • A stray piece of metal in a grinding machine that sparked
  • A leak in an overhead oil line that atomized and subsequently ignited
  • A natural gas leak in the vicinity of the thermal transfer unit

Following the initial event, four explosions occurred throughout the facility.  These explosions were caused by dust in the facility that was placed into suspension in the air by each prior explosion.  It was observed that there were large amounts of dust throughout the facility and there were minimal efforts to control electrical ignition sources.

NFPA members can read the full investigation report for free, and all site visitors can download a summary in Spanish.  Additionally, NFPA 664: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities is a valuable resource for anyone interested in keeping these types of facilities safe.

-Ben Evarts