Hazardous materials specialists arrive in Wahpeton, N.D., to assess fire; mandatory evacuation ordered for nearby residents
UPDATED 1:08 p.m. WAHPETON, N.D. - Hazardous materials specialists from Fargo and Morris, Minn., arrived here about 12:45 p.m. Monday to begin assessing an industrial fire that prompted two evacuations. The teams said it was too early to comment ...
UPDATED 1:08 p.m.
WAHPETON, N.D. - Hazardous materials specialists from Fargo and Morris, Minn., arrived here about 12:45 p.m. Monday to begin assessing an industrial fire that prompted two evacuations.
The teams said it was too early to comment as they just began to talk with officials and learn more about the fire.
Police officers began knocking on doors here in the morning to inform hundreds of residents about a mandatory evacuation. By Monday afternoon, the fire at Industrial Plating Corp. was under control and smoke drifting across a nearby neighborhood began to dissipate. The extent of damage to the business was not immediately known.
The mandatory evacuation in subzero temperatures was prompted by smoke billowing from the business.
Wapheton firefighters work to control the toxic smoke Monday morning from the explosion of the Industrial Plating Corporation that happened around 2:30 a.m. in Wapheton. Jay Pickthorn / The Forum
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Wahpeton City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the evacuation affected 200 to 500 people and the city opened shelters at the Wahpeton Middle School and Bethel Lutheran Church.
Officials said they were concerned some water used to battle the blaze had been contaminated and reached the Red River. In addition, officials from state agencies, including the Department of Health, were being called to the scene.
The mandatory evacuation followed an earlier voluntary evacuation of about 25 homes. Those residents were allowed back in their homes, which temporarily lost power, and the latest evacuation was implemented for homes south and southeast of the business at 501 6th Ave. S.
The blaze was spotted by a police officer on patrol about 2:30 a.m. with flames 20 feet in the air.
Firefighters from Wahpeton, Dwight, N.D., and Breckenridge, Minn., all responded to the fire. The building remains on fire and responders continue spraying water on it.
Vaughn Griffin, a firefighter from Dwight, suffered chemical burns on the top of his feet from standing in water mixed with chemicals. He was treated and back on the scene within an hour, according to Kyle Shockley, the assistant fire chief for Dwight.
Don Klovstad, the second assistant fire chief for Wahpeton, said seven or eight firefighters from his department were trying to tackle a loose hose and fell into the contaminated water.
The firefighters were brought back to fire hall for decontamination before they were sent to the hospital for examination. All of them checked out OK, Klovstad said.
There was an electrical fire at the business about two weeks ago, Klovstab said.
Authorities say the company uses large amounts of hydrochloric acid for cleaning metal. The business is south of Wahpeton's downtown and near a residential area. A dike of sandbags was set up to contain contaminated water on the scene, according to Brett Lambrecht, emergency manager for Richland County.
The city's reverse 911 system notified residents living in the area. About 25 to 30 homes were evacuated voluntarily and 25 homes were without power this morning. Residents could go to the law enforcement center if they chose and at least one church opened to take in evacuees, Lambrecht said.
One firefighter was taken to a hospital with minor chemical burns to the feet, according to one official.
In 2000, Industrial Plating completed a 23,000-square-foot expansion and addition of another 21-foot zinc plating rack line.
The expansion houses the company's threading division and expanded warehouse and shipping/receiving department.
The company manufactures rolled thread products and provides zinc plating services to companies in the U.S. and Canada.
Industrial Plating specializes in zinc plating, vapor degreasing, painting of nuts and bolts, heavy rust cleaning and polymeric corrosion treatment.
The company's Web site is www.thinkzinc.net .