Iowa town evacuated after toxic fire hits airport warehouse

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Northwood, IA, United States (4E) – A fire believed to contain sulfuric acid broke out at a warehouse of an Iowa municipal airport Thursday sending residents fleeing for safety.

Four people reportedly sought treatment at the Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City shortly after the fire started around 8 a.m. at a fertilizer storage facility of the Northwood Municipal Airport, where crop dusting planes take off and land. A resident said she heard an explosion at the airport causing a black plume that hovered over Northwood.

The Worth County Emergency Management (WCEM) office advised the 1,900 residents of the town to evacuate to the Kensett Community Center, approximately six miles south of Northwood on Highway 65, around 9 a.m. as a precaution because the fire was thought to contain sulfuric acid produced by the burning of the fertilizer in the warehouse. But WCEM officials announced at 3:10 p.m. Thursday that the evacuees can return home as the smoke from the fire changed direction going to unpopulated areas.

Air tests also indicated that there was not much sulfuric acid in the town, said Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright, according to Des Moines Register.

Sulfuric acid is used in battery acid, some fertilizers and some cleaning materials. The chemical can cause vomiting, burns and respiratory problems when it touches the skin or inhaled. Other symptoms of sulfuric acid poisoning are breathing difficulty, weakness, chest pain, coughing, choking, dizziness, low blood pressure and rapid pulse.

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