Fire in Amherstburg, Ontario dies down

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A huge fire at a plastics recycling plant fire forced hundreds of residents in Amherstburg, a Southwestern Ontario town, to flee their homes.

It started early yesterday afternoon. Smoke was 20 metres high over the area and grew to roughly the size of two football fields.

Residents were evacuated from 360 nearby houses, but by 6:00 P.M. ET (UTC-5) were told it was safe to return after officials determined the smoke was not considered to be a health risk.

Dave Fields, the fire chief from nearby Windsor, said "80 firefighters were called in from other districts to battle the flames".

"If people are going to store materials like this, you can't be available to store them in these types of quantities. It's a disaster waiting to happen," said Chief Fields. Chief Fields blamed storage practices at Enviro-Tech for much of the problem, saying the amount of high-density plastic stored at the plant made fighting the fire nearly impossible.

Also, a toxic cloud of chemicals forced 1,500 employees and residents to flee after a fire engulfed the laboratory of a coatings plant north of Montreal at Boisbriand, Quebec. Thick black smoke swirled over the town located at the intersection of Highways 15 and 640.

More than 100 firefighters were called about 12:00 P.M. ET to get rid of the blaze on the third floor at Polyval Coatings Inc.

Fire Chief Christian Grand'Maison said early last night that "the fire wasn't yet under control but there were no longer concerns that it could flare up again". The evacuation order was lifted about 7:00 P.M.

People who live east of Boisbriand and nearby Rosemere have been asked to keep their windows closed until it's clear, while Environment Quebec is at the smoke scene and is testing the air quality.

Three people have minor injuries. One employee was burned on the arm. A firefighter and a resident were treated for smoke inhalation.