And for a time, it seemed their fears were well-founded.
The loud blasts, one after another, at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares sent huge plumes of fire into the night sky. “Like bombs are going off,” Tavares resident Norma Haygood told CNN affiliate WESH.
Eight plant workers went to hospitals. And authorities couldn’t find 15 others.
There were 53,000 20-pound cylinders of propane at the facility — more than a million pounds in all, said John Herrell, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Firefighters immediately set up a half-mile evacuation area around the plant. The nearest homes — about 50 of them — are about three-quarters of a mile away, Herrell said.