FAIRLAWN — A fire broke out at the Radford Arsenal on the heels of the ceremony changing the commander of the munitions plant shortly before noon Thursday.
Shortly after the ceremony ended, at 11:41 a.m., a fire occurred in a mix-house production building at the facility. The onsite safety, health, and environment teams responded, and local fire departments from Radford, Christiansburg, and Fairlawn assisted, according to Army spokeswoman Justine Barati.
Barati said one employee is being treated for burns at a local hospital and two firefighters are being treated for smoke inhalation with one other being treated onsite for minor injuries related to the fire.
The name of the employee has not been released.
According to a joint release from the arsenal and BAE Systems, a British based company that operates the plant, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Barati said that it was determined that the best course of action is to let the fire burn out on its own.
The latest incident comes almost a year to the date of an explosion at the arsenal that killed one person and seriously injured two others.
Lt. Col. James Scott – who turned over command of the plant to Lt. Col. Anthony Kazor in the Thursday ceremony outside the facility’s administration building – briefly spoke about the June 11, 2018, incident and the arsenal’s commitment to safety.
“Almost a year ago next week we had an incident on the installation and we lost the life of Andrew Goad,” he said before asking the approximately 100 attendees to take a moment of silence in Goad’s memory.
“That has marked my time here as the relationships I’ve built have as well. But I’ll tell you, the team on the ground has responded and we will continue to do everything we need to do to operate this plant safely and that is the commitment you’ve got from the entire team.”
Barati echoed Scott’s sentiment on safety in a second news release Thursday.
“The Army and the operating contractor, BAE Systems, are committed to carrying out a thorough investigation and are concerned about those affected.
“The health and safety of our workforce and community remains our top priority at all times,” she wrote.
The 2018 incident occurred after nitrocellulose material in the drying process combusted and caused a flash fire. The three injured employees — Goad, Travis Mitchell and Dakota Grimmett — were taken from a New River Valley hospital to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.
Goad died from his injuries on June 16. Mitchell and Grimmett were released from the hospital at a later date.
The Roanoke Times reported that Goad was the first person to suffer a workplace-related death at the arsenal since 1991 and only the second salaried supervisor to die as a result of an incident at the plant, according to author and plant historian Dennis Kitts.
Goad was the 40th worker at the plant to die in its history, which goes back to the early 1940s.
Barati said Thursday’s fire was not caused by an explosion and that it did not happen in the same building as last year’s deadly accident.