Shortly before 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, an explosion occurred at the McKinley Climatic Lab located at Eglin Air Force Base, officials said. A 1000-foot cordon has been established around the explosion site.
No injuries to any base employees as a result of the explosion have been identified, officials said.
A large smoke plume, which officials have said may contain methyl chloride, was visible at the site of the explosion but has since dissipated. Those nearby were cautioned to avoid contact with the smoke if possible. Exposure to methyl chloride, also called chloromethane, can produce central nervous system effects similar to drug intoxication, including drowsiness, dizziness, or confusion and difficulty with breathing, walking, or speaking.
Methyl chloride is used as a refrigerant in the lab’s mission of aircraft weather testing. Located in historic Building 440 — listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 — the McKinley Climatic Laboratory is essentially an insulated, refrigerated hangar, capable of testing aircraft and components at temperatures ranging from -80 °F (-62 °C) to 170 °F (77 °C).
Since opening in 1947, the lab has tested hundreds of different aircraft and thousands of components for the U.S. military, private industry, and allied governments. In addition to cold and hot weather testing, the laboratory also includes a Salt Test Chamber and Sun, Wind, Rain & Dust Chamber.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.