For the latest on the fire in Wood County, see here.
Updated: Oct. 23, 2017, at 5 p.m.
Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency in Wood County Monday afternoon in response to an industrial fire in Parkersburg that has burned since early Saturday morning.
The fire was reported at about 1 a.m. Saturday at the old Ames tool plant, just outside Parkersburg city limits.
The emergency declaration allows the state to bring in more resources for those fighting the fire. According to a news release from the governor’s office, The declaration will remain in effect for 30 days unless it is terminated or extended by a subsequent proclamation.
Previous story: The mood on Monday morning had shifted from the night before, when an emergency county commission meeting had officials still wondering what the continued response might be.
With a volunteer-led effort that had been stretched to capacity, city water resources depleted and the county expending hundreds of thousands of dollars in just two days, commission president Blair Couch said, with the fire still burning, state officials were helpful overnight.
“Of course no one in that room at that time could make a decision. They had to talk to their higher-ups and make some calls,” Couch said. “Secretary [Jeff] Sandy went to work for us and he was able to get an assurance from the state of West Virginia that bills would be paid. The effort may cost anywhere from 60 to 100,000 [dollars] a day. And it may take four to five days to put this out.”
The fire, which began around 1 a.m. Saturday, is located at 3801 Camden Ave. The facility once housed the former Ames tool plant but is now a warehouse facility owned by Surnaik Holdings of WV, LLC.
Some government facilities, including the offices at the Fourth Circuit Court, closed on Monday. Wood County Schools were also closed and a voluntary shelter has been established for those in the area near the blaze.
Couch said those decisions came as a shift in weather patterns lowered the plume of smoke that’s dissipated but still lingers in areas around Parkersburg.
“It wasn’t such a bad problem, but when it starts lowering and becoming a ground-level problem — it troubled me to no end to see these residents — that if you go by the site on your left hand side is an active industrial fire on the right hand side is businesses and family homes with small children,” he said. “And, so, we’ve got to do something and right now. We’re smelling it in this room — the smell of burnt plastic.”
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection continue to monitor the air for particulate matter from the burnt plastics stored at the facility. More detailed air quality monitoring is also being sought through the federal Environmental Protection Agency, as well as private contractors.
Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said officials are still reviewing Material Safety Data Sheets and trying determine exactly what was in the warehouse when the fire started.
“We are working on that. We have meetings scheduled throughout the day. We are getting what they call bill of ladings, which documents what was purchased and what was in that facility,” he said.
Sandy said various state agencies have supplied diesel fuel, fire foam and other resources to help fight the fire and that the governor’s office has committed to continue providing whatever is needed moving forward.
State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Jimmy Gianato says state resources will be on site until the fire is out and any potential threats are mitigated.
“Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the owner of the property. So we’re working with them and in trying to make sure that they understand what their long-term responsibilities are to remediate everything,” he said. “DEP is the lead from the state side as far as the environmental piece in the fire marshal has people on scene — so they’ll continue to work on this. So, our resources from the state level will be here until it’s over.”
No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown.