Fire at former Ames plant expected to burn for days
PARKERSBURG — Smoke is expected to continue to billow for several days from the former shovel plant in south Parkersburg that caught fire early Saturday morning.
Twenty departments from six counties — including the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Environmental Protection — responded to the Ames Plant on Camden Avenue where all that remains of the more-than-400,000 square foot facility is charred rubble.
The fire started at the west end of the building and moved eastward, eventually overtaking most of the facility, but was stopped at the office complex, said Mark Stewart, chief of the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department and incident commander.
“We saved the office complex and Yellow Taxi has a building that was saved,” he said.
No injuries were reported, Stewart said. Plastic material was stored in the facility, owned by IEI Plastics, he said.
The initial responder to the fire was the Parkersburg Fire Department as it was assumed the plant was inside the city, Stewart said. The plant is outside city limits in the Lubeck VFD service area.
The fire started around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Stewart said.
Kelly Summers, who lives near the plant and was watching efforts to battle the blaze, said her nephew heard pops around 1 a.m. and thought someone was shooting a gun.
“He was terrified that someone was out here shooting guns,” she said.
Another nearby resident who asked not to be identified said she was awakened by the traffic and looked out her kitchen window.
“I could see nothing but a wall of flames,” she said. “I never saw anything spread so fast in my life.”
A cause has yet to be determined, Stewart said. Investigators with the West Virginia Fire Marshal were on scene ready to commence the investigation into the fire on Saturday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection conducted air quality tests in the area, including Williamstown and Marietta, Stewart said.
The Wood County Unified Command is issuing alerts and in its latest on at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, a statement was issued by the unified command that a local lab advised that the fallen ash was non-toxic to residents.
Concerns with air quality caused officials to postpone Saturday’s football game between Parkersburg Catholic and Williamstown high schools and the women’s soccer match between Ohio Valley University and Ursiline.
Originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, the football game was moved to 7 p.m. Monday. No makeup date has been announced for the OVU soccer match.
Fire departments continued to douse the fire with water since arriving on scene Saturday morning. A fire boat was in the Little Kanawha River where a dike was being installed, Stewart said.
The Wood County Commission has declared the scene a disaster area. Commission President Blair Couch said fire-fighting foam has been delivered to the scene by Specialized Professional Services of Washington, Pa.
Among state resources being made available were fuel trucks from the West Virginia Division of Highways, said Jeff Sandy, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. Services were requested by Couch, Sandy said.
The fire marshal will remain on scene to perform an investigation, he said. Homeland Security is providing flood lighting, Sandy said. General James A. Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard has arranged to have firefighting foam available, if needed, he said.
It is the largest fire in several decades, Stewart said.
Fire departments responding from Jackson, Ritchie, Pleasants, Wirt, Washington and Wood counties were Lubeck, Parkersburg, Blennerhassett, Washington Bottom, Mineral Wells, Waverly, Vienna, Williamstown, Eastwood, Pond Creek, Pond Creek, Little Hocking, Marietta, Ravenswood, Ripley, Pennsboro, St. Marys, Belmont, Elizabeth and Belpre.
Also responding were the American Red Cross, the Department of Highways, Parkersburg Police, Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Camden Clark Ambulance, St Joseph Ambulance, Wood County Health Department, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Wood County Emergency Management, West Virginia Emergency Management and E911.
In addition to a portion of Camden Avenue itself, roadways surrounding the fire scene were closed Saturday, including sections of Camden and Broadway avenues, Camden Avenue and Olive Street, Camden Avenue and Myrtle Street and several connecting alleys.
By late Saturday morning, fire crews drafting water from the Ohio River to relieve the stress placed upon Parkersburg’s water supply by the continual draw of the fire hydrants in that area.
For area residents wishing to assist efforts, Lubeck Fire Department on W.Va. 68 in Lubeck is accepting donations of water for the firefighters that are working the Ames fire and are expected to be on site by shift for several days.