Firefighters Battling Rice Fire; Evacuees Prepare To Go Home
Jul. 16, 1986
FORREST CITY, Ark. (AP) _ Firefighters on Tuesday controlled a blaze smoldering in tons of rice hulls at a processing and storage plant, and more than 1,500 people evacuated due to fears of toxic fumes began returning home.
State Pollution Control and Ecology officials had ordered the evacuation of a six-block area around the plant late Monday, worried that fumigants sprayed on the rice might pose a health threat in the air. But after testing the rice Tuesday, officials said no toxic substances were evident.
Many of the evacuees spent the night huddled in a makeshift emergency shelter in the Forrest City Civic Center as firefighters, Red Cross volunteers and youngsters from a local fast food restaurant came to their aid.
Those who showed signs of illness from the fumes were taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital by city police. Hospital officials said 67 people were treated for headaches, dizziness or stomach aches. Two firefighters were admitted for smoke inhalation.
About 70 firefighters from nine surrounding towns initially responded to the fire Monday. They remained on call Tuesday.
Workers at Howell Enterprises discovered the smoldering fire Saturday in a storage building containing 750,000 bushels of rice, company president Chris Howell said. He said workers sealed off the area in an effort to smother the blaze. The company discovered the fire still burning when a tunnel underneath the rice was opened Monday, Howell said, and local authorities were notified.