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WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) -
Two Westlake Chemicals employees were injured in a plant fire on Friday night, according to Joe Andrepont, an official at Westlake Chemicals.
Andrepont told KPLC that one employee was transferred to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and later to Baton Rouge General with second-degree burns to more than half of his body. However, the employee is reportedly doing well and is expected to have a full recovery.
The other employee, Andrepont said, had first-degree burns. He was treated and released Friday.
Andrepont said two operators at the plant, referred to as Westlake Polymers, brought down a polyethylene line about 5 p.m.
About 8 p.m., the operators began doing maintenance on that line.
To clean out the line, Andrepont said workers use a nitrogen purge which renders the line free of any ethylene which is a flammable gas.
When they turned on the valve, residual gas in the line created a flash fire, Andrepont said.
The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes by the Westlake Fire Brigade within the plant, Andrepont said.
There were no effects to the outside of the plant and the physical damage to the unit involved was minimal, he added.
Andrepont said that ethylene gas is the building block chemical used to produce polyethylene which is used to make non-toxic plastic pellets.
The pellets are used to make items like bread bags, toys, and medical containers, he said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to our employees who were injured in this accident and to their family members," he said.
Andrepont said the appropriate agencies were alerted about the incident.