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Pine River Stockman Transfer worker survives explosion

A worker suffered burn injuries in a confined explosion Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Stockman Transfer and Recycling on Highway 371 between Backus and Pine River.

The unnamed employee was working to thaw ice from the scales used to weigh incoming recycling and garbage, said manager Marlen Harris. He was coming out of a service area beneath the scale when gas from the propane heaters ignited.

He was nearly out of the service area when the explosion occurred. He received burns to his face, chest and hands, though he did not receive any life-threatening or debilitating injuries, Harris said.

“He got out of there. That was the best part. He got out and he rolled around in the snow and walked to the office on his own,” Harris said.

Emergency crews arrived on scene within 10 minutes and took the injured employee to Minneapolis for medical treatment.

The Pine River Fire Department also responded. Firefighters used self-contained breathing apparatus and gas sensors to test the confined space for remaining combustible or poisonous gases. They found none. Beyond the initial vapor explosion, there was no fire at the scene.

“There was no actual fire. It was just basically an explosion. There must have been a flash fire, I would guess. There was only one person down there and he’s the only one who actually knows what happened,” Harris said.

Harris reviewed surveillance cameras on the premise and saw no flames at the time of the explosion. He did see dust and snow expelled from the scale.

The scale was blown out of balance, but sustained no real damage. Harris said that future incidents will be prevented by using electric heaters instead of propane to thaw scales.

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.