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Ford Plant Blast Triggered by Gas

February 5, 1999

DETROIT (AP) _ A gas buildup in the boiler of a power station at the Ford Motor Co. Rouge complex caused an explosion that destroyed the station and killed a worker, a state inspector said Thursday.

The blast Monday injured more than 20 other Ford workers, 15 of whom remained in critical condition Thursday. It cut off power and shut down production at the 1,100-acre complex where 10,000 people work.

A boiler inspector from the state Department of Consumer and Industry Services examined the remains of the coal-fired power plant Thursday and traced the blast to boiler No. 6.

Dave Johnson said the blast was caused by a furnace explosion. He said gas built up inside the firebox of the boiler and then ignited.

The firebox generated heat that turned water into steam to power the plant’s electrical generators. The steam also powered other factory operations.

The boiler was made in 1965 and was one of the newer ones at the Rouge complex, which has some boilers dating from the 1930s, agency spokeswoman Maura Campbell said. It last was inspected Feb. 20, 1998, and was due soon for an annual check.

``This is probably the last thing we’ll be able to do for a while,″ Ms. Campbell said. ``A lot of the other questions are going to take some time to answer, like why was there a buildup of gas in the boiler.″

Another key question is what ignited the gas, the agency said.

Ford is pushing to resume full production on Monday at the complex, which makes Ford Mustangs as well as engines and a variety of other vehicle components used at 16 of Ford’s 20 North American assembly plants.

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