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Seed Firm Blaze That Forced 5,000 to Flee Is Doused

May 31, 1987|United Press International

WOODBURN, Ind. — Firefighters extinguished a smoldering fire Saturday at a seed company plant that had forced the evacuation of more than 5,000 people and contaminated a nearby river with farm chemical runoff, authorities said.

Firefighters put out remaining hot spots after containing pesticide and herbicide runoff by building a dike around the fire site in Woodburn, about three miles from the Ohio border.

Wearing protective clothing, they entered the metal warehouse shed at the Maumee Valley Seed Co. and began dragging out smoldering sacks.

Of the more than 5,000 evacuees on both sides of the Indiana-Ohio border, all but 50 families had returned home by early Saturday. After houses were checked for contamination, the rest were allowed to return later in the day.

Woodburn Fire Chief Ken Reckeweg said most of the farm chemicals had burned off in the blaze, which began Thursday evening. The Environmental Protection Agency found no contamination in the air around the fire scene, said Bill Reynolds, community relations coordinator for the EPA.

Environmental authorities also sampled the nearby Maumee River, which was contaminated by chemical runoff when firefighters originally poured water on the blaze.

Residents of two Ohio towns, Hicksville and Defiance, were told that any contaminants that were in the water were diluted and not at a dangerous level.

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