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An explosion and fire at the maker of the popular candy Airheads, broke out early Friday morning at the Perfetti Van Melle candy factory.

An explosion shook nearby homes in Erlanger, KY, around 3 a.m. Friday, officials said.

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“Shortly after the first unit got out of the station, they could actually see the fire from the station,” said Point Pleasant Fire Department Asst. Chief Bill Martin said.

Flames were shooting out of the Perfetti Van Melle (PVM) plant. The factory makes all of the Airheads candy for North America. Officials said the silo that handles sugar for candy making exploded.

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“Anytime you’re dealing with any kind of dust or whatever, you have a chance of explosion – that’s always a hazard in that kind of operation; there’s all kinds of dust hazards – this just happens to involve a sugar product,” Martin said.

Hundreds of employees made it out safely as dust in the form of sugar filled the air.

“They heard the explosion and took the necessary steps and made the call and got themselves out,” said Mehmet Yuksek, president and chief executive at PVM USA.

The three-alarm fire was under control around 4:30 a.m.

“I think the sprinkler system did its job for the most part. The fire that we saw and that was extinguished with the ladder pipe that we had up. The involvement inside the building was actually very limited by the sprinkler system,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, employees stayed home Friday.

“Until we know exactly what the damages are and what we need to do, we won’t be making any production,” said Yuksek.

Investigators are still trying to determine a cause.

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