Chemicals burned in Sunnyside agricultural plant fire generate hazardous runoff, triggering evacuations

UPDATE at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 28: Firefighters will observe the Nutrien Ag Solutions building in Sunnyside overnight after a tremendous chemical fire consumed one building and burned hazardous materials on Monday afternoon.

Sunnyside Fire Chief Ken Anderson says that the bulk of the fire was extinguished, but crews now turn their attention to possibly hazardous runoff. Hazmat specialists are on-site consulting with how to proceed, and whether fire officials will let the flames smolder overnight.

There were no injuries to employees of the agricultural site or firefighters as a result of this incident.

Crews from Zillah, Granger, Sunnyside, Grandview, Yakima County Fire District No. 5, Toppenish, Prosser, and West Benton Fire & Rescue responded to the scene through mutual aid agreements.

Smoke spread into the city because of winds, leading to evacuations for 18 homes. That being said, the wind is helping to dissipate the smoke and improve air conditions across Sunnyside.

More than 1.7 million pounds of sulfur burned—though fire officials were more concerned with the hazardous ammonium sulfate. Authorities say 236,000 lbs of the substance, which was considered the most dangerous chemical in the plant, burned early into the blaze.

Midvale Road will remain closed from Emerald Road to Duffy Road; likely through Monday night into Tuesday morning.

The cause of the fire hasn’t fully been determined. Sunnyside fire officials will remain on-site through the night to learn more about the source of this fire. Therefore, fire officials haven’t determined an estimate of damages in the blaze.

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

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — A structure fire south of I-82 in Yakima County has drawn a widescale response from firefighters across the region on Monday afternoon.

Yakima County Emergency Management confirmed that hazardous materials were involved in the structure fire. For that reason, residences and buildings within a half-mile radius of the fire have been evacuated. Yakima police officers are visiting homes to advise people to leave.

Crews from the City of Sunnyside are leading the response with Yakima County Fire District No. 5 joining as part of a mutual aid response.

High winds are pushing heavy, black clouds of smoke across the area. It’s unclear whether anyone was inside of the plant or how long this response will last.

At least one building is fully involved, and all community members are being advised to stay clear of the area.

Initial details are limited, but the structure on the 1100-block of Midvale Road belongs to Nutrien Ag Solutions—a retail division of one of the nation’s largest agriculture companies.

Chief Kamiakin Elementary School and Pioneer Elementary School are sheltering in place due to their proximity to the fire. That means students will not be released until it is safe to do so.

NOTE: Chief Kamiakin and Pioneer students were released at 5:10 p.m. on Monday evening.

Additionally, the HVAC systems at these schools, Sunnyside High School and Harrison Middle School have been turned off to prevent unsafe air from filtering into their facilities, according to the Sunnyside School District.

An evacuation center has been established at the Sunnyside Community Center. Anyone who was forced to leave the area can visit this site for safe shelter and emergency accommodations.

This is a developing news story. An update and/or follow-up will be issued as further details are revealed.


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