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Investigators Seek Cause of Bend Bullet Plant BlastFire Officials Praise Nosler
By Adam Aaro, KTVZ.COM
POSTED: June 2, 2010

BEND, Ore. -- A massive explosion at an ammunition plant sent shock waves through southwest Bend Wednesday afternoon, but a quick evacuation helped save all 100 workers inside. Now, investigators are trying to figure out what happened

It all happened around 2:15 p.m. inside the 22-year-old, 80,000-square-foot Nosler Inc. building on SW Columbia St. near Simpson Avenue.

When it happened, many feared the worst, but incredibly, everyone made it out of the building safely.

For Bella Blackney, saying what she experienced was too close to home may be an understatement.

“I just remember driving through the smoke and couldn't see anything,” Blackney said. “The plume was really big actually, like the size of a house.”

She saw the smoke billowing out of the Nosler building, a little more than a football field from her home.

“All the sudden, the house shakes and the glasses rumbling and all the windows,” Blackney said. “All the glass shook, it was visible. I thought a bomb went off.”

“I was just down the street," said Nosler Public Relations Director Zach Waterman. "And I came back to see that and my jaw hit the floor,”

Waterman says the trouble originated in the building's underground ammunition testing area.

“One of the gentlemen that was downstairs saw a bright flash of light,” Waterman said. “He alerted everyone and pulled the fire alarm.”

A Nosler worker told us off-camera he didn't even realize anything was wrong, He thought it might have just been a fire drill when everyone was evacuated.

But once he got outside, he quickly realized something was wrong. He saw the big orange plumes of smoke coming out of the building. Then the explosion happened, and how he described it was, the roof rose up and then fell right back down.

Witnesses say the explosion was felt by people all over the immediate area. some as far away as a half-mile or more.

Much of the area around the building was closed off Wednesday because there are potentially still some combustible materials inside that could set off another explosion.

Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with Oregon State Police and Bend fire investigators, planned to gather at the blast scene Thursday morning, working to figure out what triggered the explosion.

Fire crews arrived to find extensive damage to the southeast corner of the building and brownish-yellow smoke pouring from the damaged area, said Fire Inspector Jeff Bond.

A Bend fire special rescue operations team combed the wreckage to be sure all workers were accounted for, while city building officials helped evaluate the damage and hazards for crews performing mop-up and overhaul operations.

Bond also said the quick evacuation by workers was "instrumental in a safe and effective exit from the structure."

"The company instituted and practiced building evacuations over the years, and this policy paid off today," Bond said in a news release.

A damage figure still was being compiled for a facility valued at $2.8 million for the structure and $10 million worth of contents, but Bond said it clearly was "pretty extensive."

Columbia Street remained shut into the evening hours. Firefighters asked the public to avoid the area for their safety and that of emergency workers.

Bend Fire did a personnel callback to ensure adequate staffing and called in Redmond and Sunriver firefighters for mutual aid coverage of the North and South stations.

The explosion buried at least one evacuated worker's car in debris.

One nearby resident described the blast as like "feeling a bomb inside your house." After her house shook violently, she looked out to see a huge plume of orange smoke.

Barb Gonzalez at first thought it was an earthquake, when her house was jolted by the blast. "This one felt like a 5.5 (magnitude) jolt", said the survivor of the 1994 Northridge quake in California. Her second thought was an explosion.

People several blocks away said the explosion rattled their office windows

· Super Moderator
9,706 Posts
Nosler Plant goes BOOOM!!!

I got a email from my ellett brothers rep saying the plant caught fire and exploded.. its located in Bend, OR. If you shoot Nosler custom ammo your pocket might start hurting soon

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1,628 Posts
dang i shoot their accubond in my 300win and they were kinda scarce recently. I think i have about 500 or so but that wont last all that long. I do have a few 1000 partion and Ballistic tips if need be, but my rifle sure likes that accubond and the deer have not lived long enough to complain about them either.
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