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2,500 Flee Area Near Ohio River Fire

Kentucky: A burning fertilizer plant contained tons of potentially explosive chemicals. Apparently, no one was in the plant; one minor injury is reported.

January 05, 1998| From Associated Press

MAYSVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of people fled homes on both sides of the Ohio River on Sunday as a fire in a fertilizer plant burned through tons of potentially explosive and toxic chemicals.

Authorities waited for the fire to burn itself out at the Cargill Inc. plant, which was not in operation when the blaze broke out at about 2:30 a.m. There was no immediate indication that anyone was in the plant at the time. One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

Emergency crews went door to door, waking people within a mile of the plant and advising them to take shelter at schools. About 2,500 people left their homes in Maysville and across the river in Ohio's Brown and Adams counties.

Loretta Wills said she left her apartment so quickly that she put her slacks on backward. "We just had to grab and go."

Authorities decided to let the fire in the 25,000-square-foot building burn itself out rather than use hoses and risk washing toxic chemicals into the Ohio River. The plant is about 600 yards from the river.

Maysville police said the fire was completely out by late afternoon. They lifted the evacuation order about 5 p.m., and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The fire also shut down a nearby CSX rail line and closed the Ohio River between Maysville and Manchester, Ohio, about 10 miles upstream. All river and rail traffic was reopened when the evacuation order was lifted, police said.

The plant contained stockpiles of herbicides and pesticides as well as 420 tons of ammonium nitrate.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.

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