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Several homes evacuated as precaution near Rice Park in Willmar, Minn.

The chemicals used by the worker were placed in a special container for their safe removal. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

WILLMAR -- A Willmar city worker was treated at Rice Memorial Hospital for a chemical reaction experienced while performing maintenance work Tuesday on the Rice Park wading pool.

The man's identity and condition were not released. The pool had been closed for the maintenance work, and no children were endangered, reported Willmar Police Capt. James Felt.

Emergency responders were waiting to meet with the worker to learn what chemical or chemicals he was using and apparently spilled in the small maintenance building at the pool site. A Willmar EMS team transported the worker by ambulance to the hospital while Willmar police, fire and the Kandiyohi County Rescue and the Hazardous Materials Emergency Assistance Team, or HEAT responded shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Police cordoned off the area around Rice Park, located between Second and Third Streets and Rice and Kandiyohi Avenues. Police evacuated residents in several homes on Third Street located downwind of the pool for about 1½ hours. Officers also diverted traffic.

About 10 or 11 people were in their homes at the time and very cooperative with the need to evacuate, according to Willmar Police Sgt. Michael Markkanen.

"If it had to happen, it was not a bad time to do it,'' he said. Few people were at home, and most homes were sealed with their air conditioning units running.

Also, a steady, southeast breeze of about 8.5 miles per hour kept any possible fumes from the heavy-traffic area of First Street South, only a block from the park.

The decision to evacuate the area was based on the initial concern that chlorine or another hazardous material could be leaking.

Two Willmar firefighters, also members of the Kandiyohi County Hazardous Material Emergency Assist Team, donned hazardous material suits to enter the pool building. They isolated the chemicals used by the worker, and placed them in a sealed container for safe transportation and handling.

As they worked, two other members of the hazardous materials team waited in standby, and two Willmar firefighters using self-contained breathing apparatus also were in standby.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the name of the employee will not be released due to privacy concerns.

Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation, said information to him was not complete as of Tuesday afternoon. His department oversees the operations of the wading pool.

Staff writer David Little contributed to this report.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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