MAUMELLE, Ark. (AP) — Antoinette Lee took off and ran last week when she saw flames near a machine that fills bottles with nail polish remover.
"All I could think about was: Acetone blows up," she said.
Lee and a few dozen other workers managed to escape the blaze that fire officials said burned two 1,000-gallon tanks containing acetone and torched parts of other containers at Onyx Laboratories, which also packages nail care products just north of Little Rock.
Firefighters cut off the blaze before it could spread to a much larger vessel full of acetone.
"If that tanker would have exploded, it wouldn't have been pretty," said Karon Gnau, who handles shipping and receiving at the plant.
North Little Rock Fire Assistant Chief Steve Smith said one employee was taken to a hospital, but he didn't have details about that person's injuries. Exposure to excessive levels of acetone can irritate the eyes and breathing passages.
All employees made it out of the building and authorities evacuated workers from nearby businesses, too. Traffic backed up for several hours on a busy highway near Maumelle, a bedroom community north of Little Rock, and evacuated workers had to wait to get to their cars, which were trapped behind fire engines and emergency vehicles.
Authorities and Marty Martin, who owns the company with his wife, said they did not yet know what caused the blaze. Martin declined to comment further.
Gnau said that when she first heard alarms going off, she thought it was a fire drill.
"But when I saw the people running, I knew," she said.
Outside, Gnau saw smoke billowing from the room where workers fill bottles of nail polish remover. The company sometimes adds scents — lavender, strawberry and melon — to the acetone-based product, she said. It also packages nail-care products like fingernail files and pumice stones that it sells to retailers.