Massive fire at potato plant forces evacuations

WARDEN, Wash. (AP) — A massive fire at a potato plant in Warden brought fears of an exploding ammonia tank, forcing the evacuation of nearly a third of the town for several hours.

The fire broke out at the Washington Potato Plant in eastern Washington around 5:30 p.m. Thursday in one of the dehydrators, according to Kyle Foreman with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, KOMO-TV reported.

Employees in the building made it out safely as the flames spread, eventually engulfing much of the plant.

Among the items in the burning building was large ammonia tank that firefighters worried could explode and send a toxic cloud over the region, and officials issued an urgent immediate evacuation notice for the surrounding area.

Officials went door to door urging nearby residents to leave as firefighters asked for help from all fire departments in Grant County to help contain the flames. By 8 p.m., more than two dozen firefighting crews were at the blaze, Foreman said.

The fears of explosion subsided early Friday morning and residents were being allowed back into their homes around 1 a.m., Foreman said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation and there were no injuries reported. Officials are expected to provide an update on the fire later Friday morning.