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Chemical fire evacuees return to G'view homes

GRANDVIEW - Things are starting to get back to normal in Grandview after a chemical fire at the Wilbur-Ellis facility on Wine Country Road practically shut down the town of 8,500 people for nearly three days last week.

This morning (Monday), schools were back in session, roads were open and the cloud of gray smoke that had hung over the community for much of last week had lifted.

The fire, which started just a little after noon last Wednesday, resulted in streets blocked off and hundreds of families to be evacuated from their homes. Homes and businesses within a half-mile radius of the Wilbur-Ellis facility were forced to close their doors and seek shelter elsewhere. Many families spent their days and nights at the Sunnyside Community Center, where the American Red Cross had set up an emergency shelter.

But last Friday night, those families were finally able to return to their homes. The families were able to return only after the Environmental Protection Agency had conducted numerous air and surface testing in and around the site of the agricultural fertilizer and pesticide retailer. Families were told they could return, but the Yakima Health District advised them to clean their homes when they did return. The health district advised wiping down hard surfaces and changing furnace filters, as well as washing or throwing out any food items that had been left out upon the evacuation.

The first families allowed to return to their homes were those living in the Lamplighter Trailer Park on Wilson Highway. Friday afternoon, several businesses along Wine Country and Euclid roads had also reopened.

Grandview Mayor Norm Childress said in a statement released Sunday that he wanted to thank all of those who helped with the emergency situation.

"Events like this, while dangerous and unpleasant, show us the value of emergency planning, preparedness and training for all local governments and the importance of regional and state-wide partnerships," Childress said. " I could not be more proud of Grandview, its citizens, volunteers and employees, who working with all other agencies avoided a more serious situation."

According to Grandview officials, Wilbur-Ellis has hired a company to investigate the fire and is due to give a report to the city as soon as possible. At this point the cause of the blaze is still unknown.

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