BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Justice presents $1.4M check for IEI fire expenses

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy speaks at a ceremony at the state Capitol in Charleston Monday where Gov. Jim Justice presented the Wood County Commission with a check for  $1,466,299.15 to cover the expenses of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics facility in Parkersburg. Those attending included Sens. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Mike Azinger, R-Wood, Delegates Bill Anderson, R-Wood, John Kelly, R-Wood, Vernon Criss, R-Wood, and Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, as well as Wood County Commissioners Blair Couch, Jimmy Colombo and Robert Tebay and Wood County Administrator Marty Seufer. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy speaks at a ceremony at the state Capitol in Charleston Monday where Gov. Jim Justice presented the Wood County Commission with a check for $1,466,299.15 to cover the expenses of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics facility in Parkersburg. Those attending included Sens. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Mike Azinger, R-Wood, Delegates Bill Anderson, R-Wood, John Kelly, R-Wood, Vernon Criss, R-Wood, and Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, as well as Wood County Commissioners Blair Couch, Jimmy Colombo and Robert Tebay and Wood County Administrator Marty Seufer. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice presented the Wood County Commission with a $1.4 million check Monday to cover the expenses of fighting an industrial fire in late October.

Justice presented the commission with a check for $1,466,299.15 to cover the expenses of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics facility in Parkersburg.

The fire at the IEI warehouse on Camden Avenue, the former Ames shovel plant, occurred the early morning of Oct. 21 and burned for more than a week, sending a thick black plume of smoke hundreds of feet into the air that was seen as far north as Cambridge, Ohio.

Fire departments from the region were involved in fighting the fire, including a private contractor hired by the county from Washington, Pa.

”We had a disaster happening in Wood County, a warehouse fire that was spewing things we were very concerned about into the atmosphere,” the governor said. ”Someone had to make a decision. Wood County was saying they did not have the money to keep paying the contractor…to get the fire out.

Gov. Jim Justice presents Wood County Commission President Blair Couch with a check for $1,466,299.15 to cover the expenses of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics facility in Parkersburg during a ceremony at the state Capitol Monday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Gov. Jim Justice presents Wood County Commission President Blair Couch with a check for $1,466,299.15 to cover the expenses of fighting the fire at the IEI Plastics facility in Parkersburg during a ceremony at the state Capitol Monday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

”We had to get the fire out. Our kids were not in school. The town was shut down and someone had to do something,” Justice said.

The state took the money out of the governor’s contingency fund to cover the expenses to get the fire out as soon as possible.

”We did something, we reacted,” Justice said.

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said it was a matter of leadership that prompted the governor to act so the fire would be put out quickly.

Sandy, a former Wood County sheriff, and other state officials came up during the fire and were onsite and reporting back to the governor on what was happening.

During a ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, Mark Stewart, chief of the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department, was honored for his service as incident commander of the IEI Plastics warehouse fire in Parkersburg in late October. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

During a ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, Mark Stewart, chief of the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department, was honored for his service as incident commander of the IEI Plastics warehouse fire in Parkersburg in late October. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

”The governor’s words were, ‘You cannot put a price on a West Virginian,”’ Sandy said. ”He stated ‘Do whatever it takes to make this happen.”’

Resources were mobilized with water being brought in to help fight the fire, groups were continually doing air quality tests, investigators were talking to people to figure out what happened, the National Guard brought in foam to help extinguish the fire, Sandy said.

”It was a real effort,” he said.

Officials also honored incident commander Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Stewart and Wood County 911 and Emergency Services Director Rick Woodyard for their leadership during the fire with certificates of recognition.

”There were over 189 firefighters and not one sprained ankle,” Sandy said. ”It is a tribute to the leaders on the ground.”

During a ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, Wood County 911 and Emergency Services Director Rick Woodyard was honored for his service during the IEI Plastics warehouse fire in Parkersburg in late October, which saw emergency responders from the region responding to the weeklong fire. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

During a ceremony Monday at the state Capitol, Wood County 911 and Emergency Services Director Rick Woodyard was honored for his service during the IEI Plastics warehouse fire in Parkersburg in late October, which saw emergency responders from the region responding to the weeklong fire. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Justice commended all of the firefighters who responded to the blaze and gave so willingly of themselves to protect their community.

”All around me here are heroes,” the governor said. ”They ran into the fire and did everything they could.”

Stewart was honored to be recognized, but said it was the work of so many people that got the fire out.

”I was just one piece of the 1,000-piece puzzle,” he said. ”An incident commander is only as good as his staff and Wood County is blessed to have exceptional people.”

The fire was one of the biggest the area has seen in some time.

”I told most of the guys that they just fought the biggest fire of their lives,” Stewart said. ”Fires that size do not happen very often.”

Justice and Wood County officials said they plan to go back to the owners, the Naik group of companies, and their insurance company “and get every dollar back.”

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said the county was facing the possibility of this fire burning for weeks and the possibility of bankrupting the county to extinguish the fire as soon as possible. There also was a possibility that the fire was throwing out noxious fumes that had to be considered, he said.

It was the governor’s commitment to make sure the money would be in place to pay for what was needed to fight the fire and do environmental testing, Couch said.

”Without the governor’s office, it would have been a real nightmare,” Couch said. ”As the governor said and on behalf of Wood County, we will use every means possible to address the owners, their insurance companies, and make someone stand good by this bill that we did not create and the governor was good enough to help us.”

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