Smoldering fire at Moses Lake fertilizer plant damages air quality for residents

Grant County fire, Moses Lake
Image Credit: Grant County Sheriff's Office / Facebook

UPDATE on Oct. 28, 2022: On the fifth day since the Wilbur-Ellis Fertilizer plant caught fire in Moses Lake, local authorities are extending a health advisory due to the smoldering fire and continuous smoke in the area.

According to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, smoke and gases are still damaging air quality in the vicinity of the blaze. Although these particulates are still present, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring a decrease in their potency east of the fire.

However, because of the contents of the plant, Sulfur dioxide has been detected in the air. Grant County officials say that some people exposed to this colorless gas may experience “irritations to the eyes, nose, throat and airways. SO₂ symptoms may include nasal congestion, eye irritation, burning or tearing choking, cough, airway irritation such as wheezing, burning or shortness of breath.”

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’d be wise to contact a healthcare provider to discuss the next steps. Although it won’t stop with sulfur dioxide exposure, wearing an N95 mask while in afflicted areas will help prevent the inhalation of particulates.

The following breaking news story has been left unaltered from its original publishing.

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — A fire at the Wilbur-Ellis Fertilizer plant southeast of Moses Lake destroyed the building and kept firefighters busy for hours on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 23.  

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued a shelter-in-place alert around 4:30 p.m. for anyone living within a mile to the northeast of the plant. 

Firefighters from Grant County Fire District #5 managed to bring the fire under control shortly after 5 p.m., but the building had collapsed. No injuries have been reported.  

The fire is expected to continue to smolder for about 24 hours. Firefighters are remaining on scene to keep an eye on the site.  

People living northeast of the fire who have respiratory issues should continue to take precautions, such as wearing a mask and staying indoors through Monday morning, Oct. 24.  

The Grant County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.