Chemical fire out; evacuations end
Sat., Jan. 29, 2005
GRANDVIEW, Wash. – A chemical fire that burned for nearly two days finally went out Friday, and authorities allowed hundreds of evacuated residents to return home.
State and federal authorities continued to monitor air quality in the area, said Lt. Jim Keightley, spokesman for the State Patrol.
“The fire is out. The building is gone,” Keightley said. Now, he said, the focus was on “conducting more air and soil samples to make sure there’s no residual chemicals.”
The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in an insulated storage building at the Wilbur-Ellis Co., an agricultural chemical and fertilizer retail operation in this community of 8,500 about 40 miles southeast of Yakima.
The blaze sent up a plume of toxic smoke. Hundreds of people were evacuated when heavy fog and clouds kept the smoke close to the ground.
The insulated building, or “warming room,” was used to store fertilizers and pesticides that might freeze in cold temperatures.
Authorities lifted the evacuation order at 6 p.m. Friday for about 400 residents who live in a half-mile zone around the fire scene.
Many residents of a trailer park containing about 100 mobile homes – outside the evacuation zone – had also voluntarily evacuated because roadblocks cut off access to the park, Keightley said. They were allowed to return Friday morning.
“The city of Grandview is back to normal,” Keightley said Friday night.
The fire sent dozens of people complaining of skin irritation or respiratory problems to local hospitals.
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