Officials are still trying to determine what materials are in the warehouse and how local residents’ health might be affected from a huge fire at an old Ames Tool Plant in Parkersburg. The fire began burning on Friday and although the main fire was put out on Saturday, crews have still been extinguishing continued hot spots all week, AP reported. Wood County officials said they don’t know exactly when the fire will be completely out. Anyone with respiratory problems are smell sensitivity is still being asked to stay indoors. The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, however, recommended everyone remain indoors if possible, with windows and doors closed, until they can’t detect any smell. If there’s a smell in your area, don’t run the AC or heater if you can avoid it.
1. DuPont Does Not Own the Warehouse
The old Ames Tool Plant is owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc. (IEI). Polymer Alliances Services and Intercontinental Export Import are part of a SirNaik group of companies — a waste management company.
Many posts shared on social media have incorrectly said that DuPont owns the warehouse, but this isn’t accurate. DuPont Co. told the Gazette-Mail that it’s not affiliated with the former Ames warehouse. However, Intercontinental Export Import did purchase products from DuPont’s Washington Works plant and was storing those products at the warehouse.
2. The City Still Doesn’t Know What’s Burning in the Warehouse
It’s not known exactly what materials are in the warehouse, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. A state of emergency was declared on Monday to help with the firefighting and environmental tests. Records that might have indicated what was in the warehouse were destroyed in the fire, but officials are looking for electronic records that can help.
Possible items that might have been in the warehouse include PVC, nylon, carbon black, titanium dioxide, fiberglass, formaldehyde, Teflon, and styrene. IEI provided an outdated data sheet to officials that listed previously stored materials.
Today, the Department of Environmental Protection ordered IEI to immediately provide a detailed inventory of the materials in the warehouse, along with their plans on how they will properly dispose of the debris.
3. Residents Are Still Asked to Stay Inside
Residents said their cars were covered in ash and some people were suffering from asthma attacks. On Thursday, residents nearby had been told to take shelter in their homes and if they’re in an area where a smell is detectable, they should try to stay indoors with windows and doors closed, keeping the AC and heater off if possible.
Air quality testing found that although there were visible soot particles, there were no detectable levels of chemicals in the smoke, AP reported.
Officials did say that local drinking water was safe because it’s sourced from aquifers, not a stream, according to Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Fire Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety
4. Schools in the Area Are Still Closed
Closures and relocations are still happening because of the fire:
- WVU Parkersburg’s main campus will be closed through Friday 11 p.m. because of the fire.
- the MOV Comfort Case Donation Drive for today was moved to Sunrise Baptist Church
- Community Education Classes are canceled for Thursday and Friday
- The ACT exam for Saturday is being rescheduled.
- Nest Fest dress up days and chili cook-off are being rescheduled for Oct. 30-Nov. 3.
- All Wood County Schools are in a Code C closure through Friday. New air filters are being installed so classes might be able to resume on Monday.
5. Officials Warned about Dangers at the Warehouse in 2008, 2011, & 2012
Officials have been warning about the potential for a large fire at the warehouse for nearly a decade, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Two volunteer fire chiefs in Wood County complained to the state fire marshal about the potential for a blaze in 2008. You can read their letter here from July 22, 2008. When discussing the PAS Warehouse at #7777 Broadway Avenue in Parkersburg, WV, they wrote:
This warehouse has many of the same concerns as listed above. The Lubeck VFD was called to the site for a fire recently, and could not even access the fire due to boxes stacked along the exterior of the warehouse, closing the alley. Since the time of the call, they have begun working on the exterior portion of the site… We are unaware of the conditions inside concerning the sprinkler system, but at that time, it was not functional and in disrepair. An inspection of the site would be necessary for the safety and welfare of our firefighters.
Our primary concern is that there will be a fire at one of these two warehouses, and there will not be enough water to fight a defensive fire… Boxes stacked too high, and inefficient sprinkler could kill firefighters working interior…
Firefighters on the scene are finding some of the same issues written about in the letter, the Gazette-Mail reported. However, Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Fire Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, told the Gazette-Mail that when the agency inspected the warehouse in 2008, the sprinkler system was working. He said it’s not known what the sprinkler system’s status is today.
The state Department of Environmental Protection visited the warehouse in 2011 and 2012 and found the same kinds of problems, including the lack of a groundwater protection plan including materials stored at the warehouse. The warehouse owner, IEI, was ordered to pay almost $61,000 in fines.