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Evacuations lifted following fire, ammonia release at Coos Bay facility

The Coast Guard ordered a one-mile safety zone around the area of the burning fish processing facility.

Posted: Dec 20, 2019 11:12 AM
Updated: Dec 20, 2019 2:15 PM

CHARLESTON, Ore. —  People were being allowed to return to the docks of Charleston near Coos Bay on Friday afternoon after a fire at an ice facility caused a potentially dangerous release of ammonia.

Earlier in the day, authorities had ordered people nearby to evacuate the area or shelter in place.

"The ice house in Charleston is on fire, and there is a release of ammonia into the surrounding area," the Coos County Sheriff’s Office said when it sounded the alarm on Friday morning.

The ice house is located across from the U.S. Coast Guard station on King Fisher Road in Charleston. The facility works to provide ice all day long to fisherman operating out of the Coos Bay area.

The Sheriff's Office agency said at the that that numerous units were responding to the area, but first responders had pulled back from the fire as they waited for Coos Bay’s hazardous materials team to respond.

The U.S. Coast Guard soon added that anhydrous ammonia had been released into both the water and the air, but there were no reported deaths or injuries.

"There is currently a ONE-MILE SAFETY ZONE in place around the incident which the public is REQUIRED TO EVACUATE," USCG said. "People outside of that zone should SHELTER IN PLACE."

Ammonia is flammable and can be explosive when mixed with air. It can also irritate the eyes, lungs, stomach, and skin of people directly exposed.

By the afternoon, the Coos Bay Fire Department said that there were no longer any ammonia readings from units at the scene, but the fire continued to burn.

"White smoke will still be visible, but only due to the fire. The toxic plume has either dissipated or is high enough up that there should be no further impact on citizens," Coos Bay Fire said.

The agency said that firefighters from multiple agencies and a HazMat crew were still on the scene of the fire.

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