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photo: Rocky Flats/DOE

Filings created during the machining of metal
plutonium like this could ignite spontaneously


Click above to view an exerpt about plant fires from
a declassified Atomic Energy Commission report,
August 1969


On Sunday, May 11, 1969 - Mother's Day - a fire erupted in a bomb manufacturing building containing more than 7,600 pounds of plutonium, enough for 1,000 nuclear bombs. Workers celebrating the holiday were ordered back to the plant.


Click on the alarm box to hear
a description of the fire
by former worker WIllie Warling
, Jr.

Fire Description
Oral history, Carnegie Library


Some forms of plutonium ignite spontaneously in air. Hundreds of fires broke out in the plant after 1952, when Rocky Flats began production, including a large one in 1957 that caused significant damage. But most were small and readily extinguished, leading to a sense of complacency. As the U.S. government demanded more bombs, plant operator Dow Chemical Co. complied by stuffing more plutonium and more flammable material into production buildings.


photo: Rocky Flat/DOE, 1980

Plutonium bomb production room


photo: Tim Hawkins, 2001

Fire has always been a risk at Rocky Flats

©2005 Len Ackland. All rights reserved.