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Morris haz-mat team sent to Wahpeton

A hazardous materials team from Morris is helping monitor the potential for toxic smoke and run off following an explosion and fire at an industrial plant in Wahpeton, N.D.

The team from West Central Environmental Consultants, in Morris, was dispatched to the scene, according to WCEC General Manager Doug Stahman.

The WCEC team and haz-mat experts from Fargo arrived at about 12:45 p.m., according to a Forum of Fargo-Moorhead report.

The fire at Industrial Plating Corp. started at about 2:30 a.m. Monday and prompted two evacuations.

The fire was under control by Monday afternoon. Smoke drifting across a nearby neighborhood had began to dissipate.

"(The WCEC team) is monitoring what's coming from the fire," said WCEC General Manager Doug Stahman.

The WCEC team is checking air and water run off to determine if it's toxic, Stahman said.

The extent of damage to the business was not immediately known.

Police officers began knocking on doors in neighborhoods near the fire Monday morning to inform hundreds of residents about a mandatory evacuation.

The mandatory evacuation in subzero temperatures was prompted by smoke billowing from the business.

According to the Forum report, Wahpeton City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the evacuation affected 200 to 500 people and the city opened shelters at the Wahpeton Middle School and Bethel Lutheran Church.

Officials said they were concerned some water used to battle the blaze had been contaminated and reached the Red River. In addition, officials from state agencies, including the Department of Health, were being called to the scene.

The mandatory evacuation followed an earlier voluntary evacuation of about 25 homes. Those residents were allowed back in their homes.

Vaughn Griffin, a firefighter from Dwight, suffered chemical burns on the top of his feet from standing in water mixed with chemicals. He was treated and back on the scene within an hour, according to Kyle Shockley, the assistant fire chief for Dwight.

Don Klovstad, the second assistant fire chief for Wahpeton, said seven or eight firefighters from his department were trying to tackle a loose hose and fell into the contaminated water.

The firefighters were brought back to fire hall for decontamination before they were sent to the hospital for examination. All of them checked out OK, Klovstad said.

Authorities say the company uses large amounts of hydrochloric acid for cleaning metal. The business is south of Wahpeton's downtown and near a residential area. A dike of sandbags was set up to contain contaminated water on the scene, according to Brett Lambrecht, emergency manager for Richland County.