Update: Justice declares emergency, Wood County Schools closed Tuesday

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency in Wood County as a result of the former Ames plant fire, and Wood County Schools will be closed a second day because of air quality concerns.

Justice’s declaration will allow additional resources to be mobilized to address ongoing issues created by the fire, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“Multiple State Agencies have been involved in assisting Wood County since this terrible fire started on Saturday,” Justice said. “We are committed to making sure this disaster continues to be addressed and therefore I am issuing this declaration so that essential emergency services continue without interruption.”

Wood County Schools officials announced all schools, including the district office, will be closed Tuesday following a meeting with EPA representatives and emergency responders.

Superintendent John Flint said officials indicated atmospheric conditions Tuesday would be similar to Monday, which caused smoke from the Ames plant to stay closer to the ground. Firefighters are still working to sift through debris and douse hot spots, and the smoke cloud could be smelled throughout the city and seen for miles around.

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The Williamstown-Parkersburg Catholic high school football game rescheduled for tonight at Stadium Field has been postponed again, due to air quality concerns related to the fire at the former Ames property.

In addition, a pair of regional soccer finals scheduled for Tuesday at the field have been pushed back to Wednesday, Wood County Schools Superintendent John Flint said.

Heavy rain temporarily halted work at the scene of the fire, which started early Saturday morning. The rain helped knock down some flames but also intensified the smoke.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority announced today that it will offer free rides to anyone with respiratory issues and/or the elderly affected by the plant fire to the emergency shelter at South Parkersburg Baptist Church or any safe residence within the city limits of Parkersburg or Vienna.

Call the MOVTA office at 304-422-4100 for more information.

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State and local officials continue to work to determine the contents of the former Ames facility as smoke still billows from the ongoing fire there.

Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said there were no Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Forms filed for the site. Also known as Tier II reports, the forms are submitted annually to local fire departments and other emergency response agencies to help them plan for and respond to chemical emergencies, he said.

“We have yet to identify any law or regulation that would have required this property to identify its contents to a state agency or program,” Messina said via email.

Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard said officials at the scene have a book of Material Safety Data Sheets listing characteristics of potentially toxic chemicals at the site, but it is not known if all of those listed in it were being stored there at the time of the fire.

The Wood County office of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has closed for the day, along with multiple downtown businesses including Highmark West Virginia, due to the fire and changing weather.

At the scene of the fire, heavy rain this morning helped douse some of the remaining flames, but intensified the smoke.

Wood County Schools officials have yet to determine whether schools will be open Tuesday; but West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission officials have confirmed two regional soccer finals at Stadium Field Tuesday evening are planned to go on as scheduled.

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Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard is advising people to keep away from the site of the ongoing fire at the former Ames facility in south Parkersburg.

There are not as many onlookers today as when the fire started Saturday or on Sunday, but becasue of weather conditions, the cloud of smoke from the fire is closer to the ground, affecting air quality, officials said.

Firefighters from West Virginia and Ohio continue to work to keep the fire under control and get it extinguished, although the latter is expected to take multiple days.

Tankers from Silverton, Harrisville, Salem Township and Newport, among others, have delivered water to the scene this morning.

Multiple backhoes are at the site in an attempt to move debris and provide better access to remaining hot spots.

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The state has committed money to assist local agencies with the costs of fighting the ongoing fire at the former Ames facility.

Donnie Adkins, with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s office, and Senate President Mitch Carmichael informed Wood County commissioners of the financial assistance this morning.

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Area agencies and businesses began announcing closures late this morning due to air quality concerns stemming from the ongoing fire at the Ames facility in south Parkersburg.

Wood County Magistrate and Circuit courts closed this morning, and the Wood County Public Defenders Office announced around 10 a.m. it was in the process of closing.

American National University announced it would be closed today. West Virginia University at Parkersburg had already cancelled morning classes.

Community Bank sent out an email announcing it’s downtown branch would be closed this morning. Several area businesses also were closed this morning citing air quality concerns.

We will continue to update this article as more announcements are made.