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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Grant County residents sheltering in place after fertilizer plant fire

Oct. 24, 2022 Updated Mon., Oct. 24, 2022 at 8:42 p.m.

Residents in Grant County have been asked to shelter in place after a fire destroyed a Wilbur Ellis fertilizer plant.  (Courtesy of Grant County Sheriff's Office)
Residents in Grant County have been asked to shelter in place after a fire destroyed a Wilbur Ellis fertilizer plant. (Courtesy of Grant County Sheriff's Office)

A small group of residents near Moses Lake have been asked to shelter in place until further notice after a fire on Sunday destroyed a Wilbur Ellis fertilizer plant about a mile away.

The plant collapsed after it was fully engulfed in flames on Sunday afternoon, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office said.

The Grant County Health District advised those living downwind of the smoke, which was drifting northeast, to shelter in place on Sunday. Smoke from the fire may contain noxious chemicals, which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, airway and lungs, the health district said. Infants, children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions were advised to avoid outdoor activities or exercise, the health district said.

The fire was reported at about 3:15 p.m. on Sunday. At 7:30 p.m. Monday, Grant County officials extended the shelter advisory, as the building’s structural roof joists continued to smolder.

The building, about 3 miles southeast of Moses Lake, was fully engulfed by the time Grant County Fire District 5 crews arrived, said Kyle Foreman, sheriff’s office public information officer. The building collapsed by 5:15 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.

Emergency crews let the fire smolder in an effort to prevent any unnecessary contaminated water runoff from the remains of the building, Foreman said.

Bob Horst, battalion commander for Grant County Fire District 5, said the fire was still smoldering on Monday afternoon, although with less smoke.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet.

Because fertilizer is corrosive to metal, much of the plant structure was wood, which made it more susceptible to fire, Horst said. The plant, which was considered a total loss, was the only one of its kind in Grant County, he said.

“It’s going to be a pretty big hit to the (agriculture) business and Grant County for a bit,” he said.

There were no injuries in the fire.

The Grant County Fire Marshal will investigate the fire by Wednesday at the earliest, Horst said. The Department of Ecology will also be in the area to test the air from the smoke, he said.

It’s not clear what was inside of the building when it caught fire, but the fertilizer at the plant was not considered flammable, Foreman said.

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