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12 firefighters injured in explosion

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An explosion south of Roswell at a fireworks storage facility injured 12 firefighters Wednesday.

The explosion happened at 12:15 p.m. west of the Roswell International Air Center. At a press conference after the explosion, Lance Bateman, captain with the New Mexico State Police, said two firefighters sustained serious injuries and were transported to hospitals outside the area. A later press release from the state police said the two firefighters had life threatening injuries and were airlifted to a trauma center.

Bateman said 10 other firefighters were treated on the scene for minor injuries. No one else was injured or present at the time of the explosion.

The firefighters injured had been at the building packaging fireworks for the city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display when the explosion happened, Bateman said.

Roswell firefighters who responded to the explosion were on the scene one to two minutes after receiving the call, Bateman said. The fire was mostly contained within about 20 minutes, but Bateman said firefighters were still working to mop up a few hotspots.

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The explosion initially prompted the shutdown of a runway on the northwest side of the airport so emergency personnel could reach the scene, but the runway was reopened by 2:30 p.m, Bateman said.

He added that he does not believe any additional air traffic was shut down. Old Y O Crossing Road behind the airport was initially closed to traffic following the explosion, but it was soon open again.

“We just ask people to kind of stay out of the area,” Bateman said.

Agencies that responded to the explosion include the New Mexico State Police, the Roswell Fire Department and Roswell Police Department. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is on scene assisting.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is also providing support. New Mexico fire marshals from Santa Fe were set to be there this afternoon and will likely take the lead as far as the fire investigation, Bateman said.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known and Bateman said that though the investigation is ongoing, it is not believed malice was involved.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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