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Officials investigate explosion outside Kern County chemical plant

March 5, 2011 |  5:52 pm

Kern County fire officials are investigating the cause of an explosion Saturday afternoon outside the Niklor Chemical plant.

When firefighters arrived just after 2 p.m., they found a trailer on fire in the loading docks, said Capt. Bill Brickey of the Kern County Fire Department. The factory, which repackages agricultural chemicals that arrive on rail cars, was closed.

Officials immediately shut down a small stretch of Highway 14 south of Mojave as a precaution in case of chemical leaks. It was reopened two hours later after hazardous materials experts found that chemical cylinders inside the trailer were empty.

Investigators are reviewing security tapes for clues about the fire, Brickey said. As of late Saturday afternoon the fire was being considered accidental.  A short-circuit or spontaneous combustion of residual chemicals were possibilities, he said.

-- Alan Zarembo