CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - Officials with the Louisiana National Guard say that Clean Burning Ignitor (CBI) auto-ignited in the earth-covered bunker, causing the explosion Thursday morning. As a result, the bunker was destroyed.
"This is product that was moved and properly stored in an earth covered bunker," State Trooper Matt Harris said. "This one [explosion] is minimal compared to what we dealt with four years ago."
Officials say around 320,890 pounds of CBI was initially stored in three bunkers. After the explosion, two-thirds of the CBI remains, or approximately 200,000 pounds stored between two bunkers.
The EPA confirmed the explosion this morning in an earth-covered bunker at Camp Minden in Webster Parish had no impact on air quality at and around the compound in Webster Parish.
The Louisiana Army National Guard also announced during a news conference at 11 a.m. that the site is secure and only essential personnel are being allowed access to Camp Minden.
That echoes a statement the National Guard released earlier this morning, which says:
"The explosion occurred on the east side of Camp Minden in the storage area where no one was working. The area has been secured. The contained burn chamber was not damaged."
Explosive Service International, which is responsible for the destruction of all 15 million pounds of M-6 propellant and was running 24-hour operations, has confirmed it had no injuries reported.
Authorities say the igloo, which is on the opposite side of the compound from where an incinerator is being used to destroy the M-6 propellant, contained the blast as it was designed to do. It is not yet clear whether M-6 propellant or some other explosive was stored in the bunker.
Louisiana State Police, lead agency on the investigation into today's blast, sent up a helicopter this morning to provide an aerial survey of what happened.
Noting that it looks worse than it is, Trooper Matt Harris also said there were no evacuations, no injuries and no damage to homes or businesses in the area of the compound near Doyline.
Crews have been working for 4 years to properly store the explosive propellant, which is exactly what happened and why there was minimal damage, he added.
The blast also had no impact on schools. School buses ran this morning, and classes are being held as scheduled.
Louisiana State Police also has a hazardous materials team at Camp Minden.
"We are right in the middle of trying to find out what is happening," Jason Poe, vice president of Explosive Services International, said early this morning. "We are not sure if it is anything involving our company or one of the other contractors out there."
Explosive Services International is the contractor on the burn operation to destroy millions of pounds of M-6 propellant that had been improperly stored at Camp Minden.
The Webster Parish Police Jury posted the following public notice about 6 a.m. on its Facebook page confirming the explosion at Camp Minden.
Truck driver DaWayne Munk told KSLA News 12 it appeared to come from the southeast as he was driving on Interstate 20 near mile marker 33.
"I saw a fireball over the tree line. The whole sky lit up."
The phone calls started coming in about 5 a.m.
The National Weather Service has since reported picking up a debris cloud on its radar.
A KSLA News 12 viewer said he was driving along Interstate 20 near the Haughton exit when "the sky lit up like it was daylight."
Blanchard resident David Morgan said it looked like the sun just popped up out of nowhere as he was traveling east on Interstate 220 at Airline Drive.
"I've never seen a light like that in the sky. I thought Jesus must have come back or something."
The last time there were reports of this nature, there was speculation that the area had been hit by a meteorite. It turned out to be an explosion at Camp Minden.
There's a burn operation underway now to destroy the propellant.
More than 6.2 million pounds of the M-6 propellant has been destroyed since ESI began the operation in April, the Louisiana Army National Guard reports.