Wood County gives state $1.4M bill for IEI fire

PARKERSBURG — The county has presented the state with the $1.44 million bill for the expense of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics warehouse.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch and County Administrator Marty Seufer presented the county’s $1,441,117.05 bill for the fire to West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy on Tuesday.

”Secretary Sandy understood this would be the cost of fighting this fire,” Couch said. ”He understands that this money was not being spent frivolously.”

Fire ripped through the facility, owned by the Naik group of companies, on Camden Avenue in the early morning hours of Oct. 21. The fire was extinguished on Oct. 29 with crews remaining on scene until Nov. 2.

Gov. Jim Justice committed state resources and money to fighting this fire and said specialized contractors who were on scene would be paid and other expenses covered.

County officials believe if they had to pay the bill themselves, it would have bankrupted the county.

”Without the governor’s support that fire would still be burning today,” Couch said. ”It would have been a disaster for the community. The governor stepped up to make sure everything was covered.”

Couch commended Sandy for being on site throughout the fire and reporting to the governor what would be needed.

”He was with us every step of the way,” Couch said.

Officials are still awaiting bills from two to three vendors. They believe this will put the final bill at around $1.5 million. which was the original estimate.

After his people talked with representatives of Stewart Oil for fuel costs on Tuesday, Seufer believes that will be $20,000-$25,000, which would be added to the final total.

The county is also awaiting possible bills from out-of-county fire departments for expenses and the West Virginia Division of Highways for fuel and water expenses.

The biggest expense on the bill came from Specialized Professional Services Inc. of Washington, Pa., for $916,491.59. The company specializes in handling industrial fires.

SPSI had 12 people on the scene, along with equipment and firefighting materials, for 13 days.

The most expensive day for SPSI was Oct. 29, the day the fire was announced to be put out, at $87,071.50.

The cost for Oct. 21 was $31,624.70; Oct. 22 was $38,153.80; Oct. 23 was $61,245.25; Oct. 24 was $76,981.25; Oct. 25 was $78,461.50; Oct. 26 was $75,750.25; Oct. 27 was $76,991.50; Oct. 28 was $79,922; Oct. 30 was $70,858; Oct. 31 was $66,926.75; Nov. 1 was $26,617.25; and Nov. 2 was $5,470.25.

In a letter that accompanied its bill, SPSI President Drew McCarty commended the county in its response to the fire and the support of the state to extinguish the fire.

“It was an honor and a pleasure working together with your local emergency services responders and incident command staff to minimize the impact to the communities affected,” he wrote. ”Your local responders did an amazing job of protecting the areas surrounding that massive fire and the support of your community was evident during the event.”

McCarty also wrote he would be sending a note to the governor “for his commitment to ensure emergency funding to Wood County for compensating SPSI and other supporting response costs that your county has incurred during its response to this incident.”

The next biggest expense was from the Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health (CTEH) for $390,454.92. CTEH was monitoring air quality around the site and into the surrounding community, looking for harmful chemicals that could be in the air from the fire.

CTEH had 9-15 people a day working on monitoring air quality with people in the field and others off-site doing analysis. It had people working in the area from Oct. 23 to Oct. 29.

The daily expenses were $52,099.12 for Oct. 23; $67,175.28 for Oct. 24; $59,297.67 for Oct. 25; $42,262.27 for Oct. 26; $43,464.22 for Oct. 27; $44,395.88 for Oct. 28; and $31,760.50 for Oct. 29.

The county is planning to send a copy of the bill to the owners of the property, SurNaik Holdings of WV. County officials expect the owners and their insurance carrier to reimburse the county and state for the costs of fighting the fire.

Of the expenses listed, Tim Graham Excavating LLC charged $3,600; Advance Auto Parts billed $39.87 for antifreeze and $63.40 for oil for generators; Tesa Company billed $4,758.96 for stone; Darley Defense billed $20,358 for firefighting foam; Empire Builders Inc. billed $2,500; Herc Rentals billed $1,542.88 for lights; Ron’s Porta Johns Inc. billed $600; Tyler Enterprises LLC billed $20,166.61 for fuel; West Virginia Military Authority billed $626.79 for the130th fire ES flight; the Parkersburg Utility Board billed $42,704 for water; Bosley Rental & Supply Inc. billed $570 for lights; Walker Cat billed $312.40 for lights; BFS billed $4,339.01 for fuel; Englefield Oil billed $1,400.80 for diesel fuel; and the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport billed $1,079.27.

Fire departments billed for damaged equipment and expenses they incurred while on scene. Paid fire departments charged for overtime and other expenses.

The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department billed $255.12; Lubeck VFD billed $10,910; Pond Creek VFD billed $380; Williamstown VFD billed $1,560; Deerwalk VFD billed $378.43; Mineral Wells VFD billed $2,528.06; Blennerhassett VFD billed $4,911; and the Marietta Fire Department billed $8,585.94 for personnel.

Sandy could not be reached Tuesday for comment at the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety office.

Justice’s office did not respond for a comment on whether the bill has been presented to him.

An official at the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety office referred to comments Justice made Monday about the fire during a press conference to discuss a Chinese company planning to invest $83.7 billion in developing West Virginia’s natural gas resources.

Justice talked about how the fire was a danger to the whole community and something had to be done.

”The county was on the verge of going bankrupt and someone had to make a decision,” Justice said Monday. ”I did. I made the decision that the state would back them up and bridge them until we got the insurance money.

”We are hopeful we are going to collect back every single dime that state has to spend.”