W.Va. gov. declares state of emergency over warehouse fire

Smoke continues to pour from the site as firefighters clear debris and work to extinguish hot spots

By John Raby
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State funding is sustaining the emergency response to a 4-day-old fire at a warehouse in Parkersburg, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said.

Justice on Tuesday toured the 420,000-foot warehouse property owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc., or IEI Plastics. According to its website, the company buys and sells an array of recycled plastics worldwide.

The main fire was put out Saturday, although smoke continued to pour from the site as firefighters clear debris and work to extinguish hot spots. More than 40 fire stations from Ohio and West Virginia have responded.

The cause of the fire is unknown and there have been no reports of injuries. At a news conference, Justice pledged to use every available resource to help with the firefighting effort and investigation.

"You're fighting Godzilla and you've done that with sticks and stones and you've done a tremendous job," the governor said in a room that included emergency responders and local officials. "So you should be really proud of yourselves."

Justice said he stepped in with an emergency declaration Monday to keep state funds flowing into Wood County after a firefighting contractor said it was willing to leave.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said at the news conference that county officials couldn't afford to fight the fire without the state's assistance.

Residents pummeled Justice and other officials with questions about the safety of their health, including air and water quality.

Justice said 150 air samples have been taken in different locations since Saturday, and all have been within acceptable levels. Residents susceptible to breathing problems near the plant have been told to stay indoors as a precaution, and a Red Cross shelter in the area remains open. Schools in the county were closed for a second day Tuesday.

"We're still trying to uncover and get to the very, very bottom of the last flame," Justice said. "We sure as the dickens would have lost the battle tenfold had the contractor left."

The exact contents of the warehouse aren't yet known and officials said they are working to share that and other information as quickly as possible.

"We are not hiding anything," Couch said.

A message left with the company wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.

The fire is in the same county where residents went through another scare after the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8, was released from DuPont's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg more than a decade ago.

In February, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle thousands of lawsuits related to the release. The lawsuits alleged the DuPont plant dumped C8 into the Ohio River, contaminating the local drinking water and causing illness and disease, including cancer. The chemical is used to make Teflon.


Associated Press
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