Information below is from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and WV Public Broadcasting,
PARKERSBURG — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency in Wood County as a result of the former Ames plant fire, and Wood County Schools will be closed a second day because of air quality concerns.
Justice’s declaration will allow additional resources to be mobilized to address ongoing issues created by the fire, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“Multiple State Agencies have been involved in assisting Wood County since this terrible fire started on Saturday,” Justice said. “We are committed to making sure this disaster continues to be addressed and therefore I am issuing this declaration so that essential emergency services continue without interruption.”
Wood County Schools officials announced all schools, including the district office, will be closed Tuesday following a meeting with EPA representatives and emergency responders.
Superintendent John Flint said officials indicated atmospheric conditions Tuesday would be similar to Monday, which caused smoke from the Ames plant to stay closer to the ground. Firefighters are still working to sift through debris and douse hot spots, and the smoke cloud could be smelled throughout the city and seen for miles around.
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The Williamstown-Parkersburg Catholic high school football game rescheduled for tonight at Stadium Field has been postponed again, due to air quality concerns related to the fire at the former Ames property.
In addition, a pair of regional soccer finals scheduled for Tuesday at the field have been pushed back to Wednesday, Wood County Schools Superintendent John Flint said.
Heavy rain temporarily halted work at the scene of the fire, which started early Saturday morning. The rain helped knock down some flames but also intensified the smoke.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority announced today that it will offer free rides to anyone with respiratory issues and/or the elderly affected by the plant fire to the emergency shelter at South Parkersburg Baptist Church or any safe residence within the city limits of Parkersburg or Vienna.
Call the MOVTA office at 304-422-4100 for more information.
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State and local officials continue to work to determine the contents of the former Ames facility as smoke still billows from the ongoing fire there.
Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said there were no Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Forms filed for the site. Also known as Tier II reports, the forms are submitted annually to local fire departments and other emergency response agencies to help them plan for and respond to chemical emergencies, he said.
“We have yet to identify any law or regulation that would have required this property to identify its contents to a state agency or program,” Messina said via email.
Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard said officials at the scene have a book of Material Safety Data Sheets listing characteristics of potentially toxic chemicals at the site, but it is not known if all of those listed in it were being stored there at the time of the fire.
The Wood County office of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has closed for the day, along with multiple downtown businesses including Highmark West Virginia, due to the fire and changing weather.
At the scene of the fire, heavy rain this morning helped douse some of the remaining flames, but intensified the smoke.
Wood County Schools officials have yet to determine whether schools will be open Tuesday; but West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission officials have confirmed two regional soccer finals at Stadium Field Tuesday evening are planned to go on as scheduled.
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Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard is advising people to keep away from the site of the ongoing fire at the former Ames facility in south Parkersburg.
There are not as many onlookers today as when the fire started Saturday or on Sunday, but becasue of weather conditions, the cloud of smoke from the fire is closer to the ground, affecting air quality, officials said.
Firefighters from West Virginia and Ohio continue to work to keep the fire under control and get it extinguished, although the latter is expected to take multiple days.
Tankers from Silverton, Harrisville, Salem Township and Newport, among others, have delivered water to the scene this morning.
Multiple backhoes are at the site in an attempt to move debris and provide better access to remaining hot spots.
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The state has committed money to assist local agencies with the costs of fighting the ongoing fire at the former Ames facility.
Donnie Adkins, with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s office, and Senate President Mitch Carmichael informed Wood County commissioners of the financial assistance this morning.
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Area agencies and businesses began announcing closures late this morning due to air quality concerns stemming from the ongoing fire at the Ames facility in south Parkersburg.
Wood County Magistrate and Circuit courts closed this morning, and the Wood County Public Defenders Office announced around 10 a.m. it was in the process of closing.
American National University announced it would be closed today. West Virginia University at Parkersburg had already cancelled morning classes.
Community Bank sent out an email announcing it’s downtown branch would be closed this morning. Several area businesses also were closed this morning citing air quality concerns.
We will continue to update this article as more announcements are made
What We Know And Don’t Know
Wood County is under a state of emergency as an industrial fire continues to burn at a warehouse just outside Parkersburg city limits. Gov. Jim Justice joined state and county officials to discuss ongoing efforts to put the fire out and to address residents’ health concerns.
Still, a lot of questions remain about the incident and how it might affect residents of the surrounding area. Here’s what we know (and what we don’t know):
The key is getting the fire out. But even that is a question.
Weather patterns continue to be cooperative in terms of response efforts. Heavy rains in and around Parkersburg on Monday knocked a thick plume of smoke and concentrated it closer to the ground. Tuesday morning’s weather brought some relief. As rain moved out, the smoke thinned and headed upward — away from the scene of the fire.
Even with a decrease in the plume’s size and the dissipation of the smell of burnt plastic, incident commander Mark Stewart, of the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department said there is still no timeline for extinguishing the fire.
With the fire still burning, private firefighting and hazmat firm Specialized Professional Services, Inc. of Washington, Pennsylvania, remains at the scene with local responders.
Officials are still not sure what was in the building when the fire started.
County Commissioner Blair Couch said that a warehouse owner handed Stewart a three-ring binder of material safety data sheets. Couch and other officials said that information is outdated and, thus, may not accurately reflect the materials stored at the facility as of Saturday, when the fire began.
“We’re hoping for the property owner to complete his evaluation. He said his paper work was in the building that is no longer there. Now he’s going through e-mails to get a bill of lading — trying to figure out what they had shipped out,” said Couch. “We have heard from certain industry insiders that have said, ‘We know that’s not there because we never sold them that.'”
Larry Messina of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety also clarified that state and county officials are trying to obtain recent bills of lading that would show materials that have shipped to and from the facility. He said the owners have told state and county officials they are trying to track down those documents electronically via archived email.
“It’s going to be a little bit of time,” Couch said. “I know there’s just so many people with concerns, me not the least of them.”
So far, officials say air testing shows no signs of health hazards.
Gov. Jim Justice said at a Tuesday morning news conference that air-quality testing from the West Virginia Department of Environmental shows that 150 air samples are below a 1,000 parts per million threshold when tested for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine and ammonium.
A representative for the state Department of Environmental Protection said those monitors had at one time been placed right next to the blaze. He said those readings detected levels higher than the 1,000 ppm level and were repositioned to more accurately reflect the air quality being consumed by the community.
County officials have also contracted Arkansas-based environmental consultants Center for Toxicology, Environment & Health to monitor air quality.
The owner of the property has a history in the area.
According to DEP-issued consent orders, Intercontinental Export Import, Inc. has been cited in March 2015 for failing to provide monthly water pollution reports to state regulators. According to its website, IEI is a subsidiary of Sirnaik. The West Virginia Secretary of State’s office has a “Warehousing and Storage” company chartered in Wood County under the name Surnaik Holdings of WV, LLC.
IEI owns five warehousing and storage facilities in Wood County, according to county and state officials. The DEP says IEI have been the owner of the facility that burned since 2004.
Officials failed to provide information about whether the other facilities have been inspected since the fire.
Governor Justice said he nor other state or county officials are aware of the insurance policies obtained by IEI and to what degree their coverage might help with reimbursing the cost of the response, including any law suits that might be filed against the company.
“We don’t know the extent. Now we’ve tried we’ve tried to figure that out. We do not know the extent of the insurance coverage whether it covers all liabilities or whatever,” said Justice. “And, actually, you know this is a private entity and everything and, for all I know, the ownership is trying to do the right things and work in a positive way from what I know today.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office is has been on the scene of the fire since Saturday but has yet to determine a cause.
In a Monday evening news conference, officials from the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office said in 2008 there was an operational sprinkler system at the facility.