The southern Iowa town of Blakesburg was evacuated this morning after a tanker truck carrying diesel and gasoline exploded and caught fire.  The fire started around 8:30 and the evacuation order was lifted around noon after the fire was brought under control.

 Bill Hopkins lives across the street from where the explosion happened. Hopkins says he heard the explosion and looked out the window and saw smoke coming over a nearby school, then he went around and looked out the front window and saw the tanker truck on fire.

He says he called 9-1-1 and then got out of his house. There were several more explosions and most of the town was evacuated. Hopkins says it was a scary.

“Yeah this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, I, mean I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Hopkins says. He says things could have been a lot worse if the nearby elevator had caught fire, as he says “the whole town could have been leveled out.”

Ottumwa fire chief Tony Miller responded to help out Blakesburg officials. Miller says there was a lot to do once they got on the scene.

He says there were some diesel and gasoline tanks sitting to the right of where the accident happened, and anhydrous tanks sitting to the left. Miller says that created dangers on both sides of the burning tanker and they had to be sure the did the right thing. The initial explosion created a huge plume of smoke and there were several other explosions.

Miller explained that the front of the bulk tank on the truck was on fire and every time there was an explosion, it was one of the bulkheads exploding as the fire burned through. Miller says no firefighters were injured. The driver of the tanker was injured and taken for treatment.

Some residents were allowed back in their homes, but those who lived close to the area like Hopkins, had to wait awhile before being allowed back in. The cause of the fire and explosion is not yet known.

By Mike Buchanan, KBIZ, Ottumwa