Residents want new safeguards following Tavares gas plant explosion



TAVARES, Fla. - Tavares residents attended the City Council meeting Wednesday to demand better protection following last week's massive explosion at a propane plant.

Seven workers were hurt when the Blue Rhino plant caught fire just over week ago. Now, residents want to know what's being done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"It sounded like the greatest Fourth of July grand finale you could ever hear," said resident Ken Lang.

While the Blue Rhino and the explosion weren't on the agenda, Mayor Robert Wolfe was prepared to discuss how the city can implement safety changes.

Some residents want a strict set of safeguards before the plant reopens.

"When I lived up north, I lived 3 miles from a nuclear power plant, and at that time, there were great big towers, and they had all these sirens on them, and they tested them," said Lang. "I think that would be a great idea."

Some city officials have also suggested automated water guns to drench big fires, rather than the manual system that was in place when the accident happened.

"Something we're going to ask for, I believe, to be automated or by computer -- remote, off the site. That way, in case something like this ever did happen," said Wolfe.

Local leaders have to determine if they have the authority to demand stronger safety standards and enforce them.

"I'm not sure if they have to mandate them by state or federal law," said Wolfe. "But we're going to request them to do it just for a safer atmosphere."

There's also a petition working its way around the city being signed by some residents who don't want Blue Rhino to reopen, but Wolfe said the company should be allowed to get back in business.

City leaders are still waiting on the official cause of the accident. Once the cause of the blast is determined, they'll get to work on the safeguard list, officials said.