Associated Press Published

Chiefs Warned Marshal in 2008 About Site of Warehouse Fire


Two volunteer fire chiefs warned West Virginia officials nearly a decade ago about the potential for major fires at local warehouses, one of which has now been burning for days.

Washington Bottom Fire Chief K.C. Linder and Lubeck Fire Chief Mark Stewart wrote a letter dated July 22, 2008 to the State Fire Marshal after Lubeck firefighters had issues accessing a warehouse fire in Parkersburg, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

In the letter, the fire chiefs cited multiple dangerous conditions, including the presence of hazardous materials, a lack of adequate water service and stacks of items blocking access to exits and aisles.

Over the past week, more than 40 fire stations from Ohio and West Virginia have had to respond to a much larger blaze at the same warehouse. Crews were clearing debris and extinguishing hot spots on Wednesday after the fire was put out on Saturday.

The 420,000-foot (130,000-meter) warehouse property is owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc., or IEI Plastics. The company buys and sells an array of recycled plastics worldwide, according to its website.

Recent air-quality testing conducted through contracts with the Little Rock, Arkansas-based Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health found that aside from visible soot particles, there were little or no detectable levels of other likely chemicals in the smoke, Wood County emergency officials said in a news release. The soot particle levels represented a moderate impact on air quality and compared to that of a wildfire, officials said.

The last Fire Marshal inspection of the warehouse was in 2008, Lawrence Messina, communications director for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said. The Fire Marshal office is within the Military Affairs and Public Safety department.

Investigators are still working to determine the status of the sprinkler system at the time the current fire started, Messina said. A probe into what started the fire remains ongoing and no cause has been ruled out.