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Firefighters relied on training, knowledge of building in Peterborough explosion

PETERBOROUGH — Firefighters who arrived on the scene of an explosion at New Hampshire Ball Bearings Monday knew better than to rush right in, said Eric Bowman, spokesman for the Peterborough Fire Department.

Bowman said that because of the presence of various chemicals at the manufacturing plant, along with concerns about secondary explosions and flying shrapnel, the first responders were "prepared for the worst."

"It's a big building and there are a lot of people who work there," Bowman said. "We knew it was a potentially hazardous situation."

The company makes ball bearings for the aerospace, defense, medical, dental, and high technology markets. About 450 people were working at the time of the 3:40 p.m. explosion.

Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard said emergency responders had an understanding of the potential dangers inside the plant on Route 202.

"We've toured the building in the past and know what they do here," he said. "We have a chemical data sheet that lists all the chemicals they work with and where they are."

Bowman said when the master box at the building went off, firefighters responded methodically, relying on their yearly hazardous materials training.

In the case of the Peterborough explosion, Bowman said, the hazardous materials unit from the city of Keene was called in to help first responders navigate the scene. Bowman said not a single firefighter suffered any injuries.

As of Monday evening, some of hundred-plus firefighters who responded from across Southern New Hampshire were being sent back to their home towns as investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office began the task of trying to identify the cause of the explosion.

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