All clear given in Canton after toxic fire

5:59 PM, Sep 17, 2013   |    comments
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CANTON --  Residents of a Canton neighborhood evacuated for nearly a day due to toxic fumes from a chemical fire are now back home.

The Canton Fire Department declared an all clear at noon Tuesday, ending the evacuation.  Residents around the fire site were evacuated on Monday afternoon due to concerns over sulfur dioxide being released as a result of the fire.

The fire department says after consulting with the EPA and Hazmat it was determined the airborne limits of sulfur dioxide had dropped to safe levels and people were allowed to return home.

Five schools in the area of the fire were closed on Tuesday as a precaution.

Firefighters are still looking for the cause of the fire at the former packaging company located on 19th Street and Harrisburg Road.  Firefighters remain on scene using water to douse hot spots.

The business was identified as the building that previously housed a container company that ceased operation in 2011.  Although the building was not in use at the time, officials were told the building was being rehabilitated. It is not clear if any work was being done at the time the fire began.

At its height, the fire was releasing sulfur dioxide into the air, which was measured at 53 parts per million inside the building around 10 p.m. Monday. County HAZMAT officials say that level dropped to 10 ppm around 11:30 p.m., but the number was constantly fluctuating.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency responded to the scene and the U.S. E.P.A. arrived overnight from Detroit with additional equipment.  The agencies worked together in helping to determine levels were at safe levels before letting people go home.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says levels of sulfur dioxide higher than 30 ppm can be lethal in 10 minutes of exposure.

An American Red Cross overnight shelter was established at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Market Street North to house evacuated residents.

Akron-Canton Airport and counties downwind of the smoke to the south and west were notified about the risk and are monitoring any safety threats, a Canton Fire Department official said.

No injuries were reported.


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