Firefighters Battle Flames at Iowa Plant Explosion

An explosion and fire Monday at a chemical plant northeast of Des Moines sent plumes of thick smoke into the sky and forced officials to close two interstate freeways.

There was no immediate word on whether anyone was injured.

Flames and clouds of black smoke soared above the Barton Solvents plant, and exploding barrels could be seen jetting into the sky.

Police closed Interstates 80 and 235 near the fire.

"There is thick smoke and they're concerned drivers can't see," said Dena Grey-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation. "There's also toxic fumes associated with chemicals and they're going to do some testing of the area."

The smoke could be clearly seen from five miles away in downtown Des Moines.

Barton Solvents Inc. is a wholesale distributor of industrial chemicals, oils and surfactants under the Barsol trade name. The Des Moines-based company has distribution facilities in Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

An explosion at a Barton Solvents plant in Valley Center, Kan., in July prompted widespread evacuations in the community of about 6,000 people north of Wichita. Investigators have said it was caused by static electricity as workers filled a tank that contained a dry-cleaning product.