A commercial structure fire at Nutrien Ag Solutions, 1101 Midvale Rd., started from smoldering sulfur, Monday Feb. 28 at approximately 1 p.m.
The southside storage building at the fertilizer facility was destroyed by the fire. “We still don’t have an estimated damage cost,” said Chief Ken Anderson. “The estimated footprint of the damaged property however is roughly 18,000 square feet.”
Sunnyside Firefighters arrived on scene just after 1 p.m. As of 10 p.m. Monday, one West Benton firefighter was evaluated for chemical burns and released. Firefighting operations extended through Monday night and into Tuesday.
Midvale Road was closed from Emerald to Duffy Roads. The residents in that half mile radius from the scene were evacuated.
“We had 17 families evacuated,” said Sunnyside City Manager Elizabeth Alba.
Travelers were cautioned to avoid traveling on South 1st Street to allow emergency personnel through.
An incident command center and shelter opened Monday afternoon for anyone that needed care and a safe place at the Sunnyside Community Center, 1521 S. 1st Street.
Although no one utilized the shelter, the city was prepared with food, water and the services of the American Red Cross at the community center.
Chief Kamiakin and Pioneer Elementary were put in Shelter in Place and had their HVAC systems turned off due to the chemical fire. According to the wind and weather patterns these two schools were in the direct path of the smoke and chemicals in the air. The students were not dismissed due to the Shelter in Place order.
Sunnyside School District announced at 4 p.m. Monday that students at the elementary schools were allowed be picked up by their designated pick up person, by going into the school to sign them out. A line of cars and parents formed at the front offices of both schools.
The schools gave the “all clear” at 5:10 p.m. when they released the rest of the students. “By 6:20 p.m. all students were home,” said Jessica Morgan, Communications Director for Sunnyside School District.
Harrison Middle School and Sunnyside High School students were already released for the day. The high school outside sports practices were moved inside various school gyms. The high school and middle school’s HVAC systems were also shut down.
The City of Sunnyside requested that all citizens shelter in their homes, turn off HVAC units, and keep door and windows shut. Residents were also told that the police would inform them if they needed also to evacuate.
The evacuation notice was lifted at 9 a.m. Tuesday by Yakima Valley Emergency Management team.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sunnyside Fire, Public Works, and Vanbelle Excavating personnel added six to seven loads of sand atop the remaining sulfur pile, according to Chief Anderson.
As of press time, “the fire is under control and property has been released to Nutrien personnel,” said Chief Anderson.