A fire has forced the evacuation of the entire north Iowa town of Northwood. Steve O’Neil, the emergency management coordinator for nearby Cerro Gordo County, was called in by his counterpart in Worth County around eight this morning. He says the fire was at a building near the airport.
“It was storing chemicals…and when you have those chemicals, the smoke and debris that’s coming from it could be a harm to the community,” O’Neil says.
Reports say sulfuric acid was one of the chemicals that caused concern. O’Neil is helping oversee the 2,500 residents who were evacuated to Kensett, south of Northwood. “We are operating a shelter for the people from Northwood. We are also having to open a special shelter for the nursing home which they evacuated,” O’Neil says.
O’Neil says he’s been told the fire has been knocked down, but crews are still on the scene working on it. He says they are waiting to see how long they will have to operate the shelters and are prepared to keep the people overnight.
It appears there have not been many injuries from the fire. Amanda Franzen is with Mercy Medical Center North Iowa in Mason City. “So far, we’ve had four patients walk in,” Franzen says. “Some of the general symptoms that we are expecting are vomiting, nausea and respiratory conditions. However those are not necessarily the symptoms that patients are presenting with.” The Iowa DOT says Highway 65 was closed down in the area due to the fire.
By Jesse Stewart, KRIB/KGLO, Mason City