Bunceton plant, surrounding area evacuated after explosion

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BUNCETON - The flames seem to be under control in Bunceton after an explosion Saturday morning, but the Missouri Better Bean Plant is considered a "total loss".

Because of the contents of the building, the EPA has been contacted to make sure that the surrounding area is safe.  Preliminary tests showed that any level of chemicals in the runoff are not considered flammable according to Cooper County Fire Chief David Gehm.

The Cooper County Sheriff's Office confirmed crews were fighting flames at the Missouri Better Bean plant in Bunceton Saturday morning. The plant was evacuated after a late-morning explosion.  

The Cooper County EMA said the plant and the area within a half-mile surrounding the plant were evacuated.

The Cooper County Sheriff's Office said it received reports of a fire at Missouri Better Bean Plant around 11 a.m. Deputies said a series of small explosions engulfed the plant in flames. The sheriff's office initially told KOMU 8 News via phone the plant was an ethanol plant. We later learned the plant processes soybeans into biodiesel.

Rhyse Minnick, a resident who lives by the plant, said that he heard the first explosion around 11.a.m. He said he's never seen anything like this before. 

"We thought it was dumpsters from the guy across the street who works on dumpsters until we heard the fire department," Minnick said. "When we first stepped outside it was pretty much black smoke covering the air."

Fire crews from Cooper County, Columbia, Howard County, Fortuna, Tipton and other jurisdictions arrived on the scene to fight the flames. 

KOMU 8 News has not recieved any information from officials regarding any injuries or deaths stemming from the explosion. Ryan Reuter, a division chief with the Cooper County Fire Protection District, told KOMU 8 news that he has no knowledge of anyone being in the plant at the time of the explosion. 

Reuter said two firefighters were being treated for heat exhaustion, no firefighter injuries.

Bunceton mayor Justin Hein said the city is under a boil water advisory. 

Hein asked area residents to "send prayers and thank everyone who came, especially all the fire departments that came out." 

We will continue to update this developing story. 






[Editor's note: This story has been updated to include reporter photos and videos, and to clarify facts.]