Evacuated residents return to northern Iowa town after chemical fire


Residents of Northwood have the all clear to return to their homes after an explosion and fire at a chemical storage warehouse led to an evacuation of the northern Iowa town.

WCCO reports the Worth County sheriff's office lifted the evacuation order for the town of 2,000.

According to KWWL four people were treated at a hospital in Mason City.

A plume of smoke rose over the town from the fire at Northwood Ag Products. KIMT reports residents were evacuated to a community center in Kensett, which is about five miles from Northwood.

Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright tells the New York Daily News the morning explosion was in a warehouse at the Northwood Municipal Airport where crop dusting planes are often refueled before fertilizing runs.

Bright said authorities wanted residents evacuated because the smoke from the fire was thick with chemicals including sulfuric acid. But KIMT says air quality tests taken in the afternoon came back clear, prompting the lifting of the evacuation order.

KARE 11 reported that officials with Worth County Emergency Management called the situation dangerous and closed U.S. Highway 65. It was reopened by the Transportation Department once the smoke drifted out of the area.

The Albert Lea Tribune has a gallery of photos of the evacuation from Northwood.

Northwood Mayor Jane Bloomingdale tells KAAL-TV in Austin, Minnesota that the fire started between 7:30am and 8:00am, and the city evacuation was a precaution in case of an explosion. Worth County Emergency Management Director Ray Hufftalin told the station there was a distinct odor in the area.

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