A boiler explosion at a large snack manufacturing company near Hermiston is sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky Tuesday afternoon.

 Explosion was reported around 2 PM

Fire and EMS units from seven different agencies including the Union Pacific Railroad converged on the plant about a mile and a half southwest of Hermiston following the explosion report.

 Eyewitness image used by permission

Snack foods plant explosion (eyewitness image used by permission)
Snack foods plant explosion (eyewitness image used by permission)
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UPDATE--two persons taken to area hospitals but their condition is not known. Fire officials say six persons injured in all so far.  Fire crews also battling the fire. 

According to the Umatilla County Sheriff, injuries have been reported but no specific details. There are a number of residences nearby that are on standby should winds shift or air quality deteriorate from the smoke plume, but so far it's rising straight up or slightly to the south.

 Boiler is actually like a huge radiator, used in heating process for cooking.

No word as to what caused the explosion. Shearer's has operated the snack plant since 2010. Earlier we were told it was the main boiler, which supplies heat for the cooking kettles, but now a sources says it's possible it was a smaller different one, but it blew up on a gas line, triggering the smoke and blaze. One report indicates it was a boiler that was heated off a natural gas line.

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The boiler is about the side of two large automobiles, and this system is used to avoid having open flames near the oil in the kettles.

The information has not been confirmed yet by officials, but the plant was making Jimmy John's chips at the time of the explosion.

We will continue to update you with more information as it becomes available.

Photo below courtesy of Shearer's worker who was not on-site at the time.

Witness image, (used by permission)
Witness image, (used by permission)
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Witness image, (used by permission)
Witness image, (used by permission)
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