News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Hospice of the Western Reserve

Knight Foundation

Don Drumm Studios


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Canton evacuees get the all clear, but what happened is far from clear
Canton continues to investigate a fire that sent sulfure dioxide plumes over the city
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
SLIDESHOW: Water helped turn burning sulfur into sulfur dioxide, which lead to a mass evacuation of Canton's northeast side.
Courtesy of M.L. SCHULTZE
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Investigators are continuing to try to figure out why vats of sulfur were left in an abandoned factory in Canton, and why they caught fire.  

The last of thousands of Canton residents evacuated from their homes Monday night have been allowed to return. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a long 24 hours for residents and safety forces.

LISTEN: Evacuation comes to an end, but not the invvestigation.

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:34)


Even after the one-story factory was little more than a pile of soaking and smoking brick, the smell of sulfur hung in the air. It’s a smell Canton firefighters first encountered at about 2 Monday afternoon, when they were called to an abandoned factory on 20th Street NE that had housed Convoy Containers until it shut down two years ago. 

The firefighters discovered vats of chemicals  and called in the Stark County Hazmat team.

Hazmat’s Kai Rieger says things escalated fast. 

“They started out with a report of a building fire and found out it was chemical related, then that escalated into a hazmat incident then that escalated into a fire and a hazmat incident, they it got bigger from there.”

At the Civic Center
Big enough to decide to evacuate a large swath of the Northeast quadrant stretching downtown. As many as 7,000 people live there, including Robert Smitherson, who was just returning from work.

“Everything was chaotic because of the cops and officers. By the time I got home, they just evacuated me. I didn’t even get in the door.”

Natasha Price rememberes a moment of panic as she returned home and gathered up her children and their godmother. Her daughter, Autumn, snuggles in her arms.

“She has no shoes, no socks, we have no clothes, I have no comb, no makeup.”

Price and  Smitherson were among the 160 people who spent the night at the Red Cross shelter in the Canton Memorial Civic Center. Shelter manager Tom Mehaffie says their  biggest need was "a pat on the back and information."
A Red Cross representative was stationed at the Emergency Preparedness Center passing that information along.

Changing winds and plans
Originally, Mehaffie says officials had planned to shelter people at Crenshaw Middle School.  But the wind shifted. And Crenshaw and five other schools ended up being in the evacuation zone, closed until it was lifted.

Canton Fire Division Chief John Witlatch notes that fighting the fire was tricky because the solution caused its own problems.

“You can use water on a sulfur fire, but the problem is it creates a byproduct of sulfur dioxide which is a hazardous component. So you have to put it out with water, yet it creates a gas that is not real human friendly.”

Witlatch says sulfur is a pretty common product used in manufacturing, and can self-ignite, which he thinks is what happened.

Mark Adams, who monitors air pollution for the Canton Health Department, says firefighters sent a jetstream from an aerial bucket  across the plume of smoke to try to keep it low. “The water will collect a good portion of it. ... And it will settle faster. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit released in the air.” 

What else is left behind?
At one point, Hazmat monitors were registering 53 parts per million for sulfur dioxide near the factory, more than half what’s considered a danger to health and life. 

Adams’ work day ended up being 27 hours long. His drive home takes him by a number of the old factories in Canton.

And “I was thinking to myself, there ... almost no way we can tell what type of chemicals some people are housing in some of these buildings. And I was going to say to myself, I guess this is why we have an industrial area. But to be honest, this may be an industrial-zoned area, but there are houses 15 feet away.”

The U.S. EPA and Stark County Hazmat crews left the scene about 24 hours after the chemicals were first discovered. Canton continues its investigation continues into who owns the factory and why the vats were left behind.

(Click image for larger view.)

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

The postal workers union is challenging mail-sorting closures in Ohio
Do not close the akron facilaty for mail processing. This will severly deminish mail service to the northeast ohio area, Cleveland can not handle this burden.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park OK's sharpshooters to thin deer herds
In this article you mention that the Mule Deer Foundation is a "hunting group" in reality the Mule Deer Foundation is a conservation group that is over 25 years...

Clarence Bozeman: In the driver's seat of history
I believe he was a teacher of mine as James Ford Rhodes. My favorite teacher of all time! Loved learning this part of his amazing history.

Cleveland RTA is moving Public Square bus stops beginning this week
I am very confused. Why are you taking one or more of the park and ride 246 out of service in the morning. I looking over the new schedule I see that there ar...

Canton school board will vote Wednesday on its high school merger
Great to see that THE REPOSITORY is advising a 'no' vote for now! Another point, besides all the Very accurate points already made against this move is the fac...

Some parents opting their students out of Common Core test
I am an 8th grader at a school in Allen County. I have just recently taken the ELA performance based assessment and found it extremely difficult. It asked me a ...

Fallout from the Ohio Supreme Court Munroe Falls ruling
The comment by Nathan Johnson from OEC is confusing. Instead of cities being 'emboldened' to craft zoning laws that were just stricken down by this ruling, comm...

Stopping sediment dumping in Lake Erie
Ah, yes, the Army Coro of Engineers, the geniuses that designed the levee system in New Orleans that has made the flooding worse due to no sediment reaching the...

Ohio charter school critic says reform bills are a good step
The cold truth is that these charter schools are offering services beyond the what the state tests can guage. Parents and students have a choice and they are ch...

State law trumps restrictions on oil and gas drilling in Munroe Falls
Justice O'Neill's quote brings up a point I wish WKSU would address: since, unlike for Federal judges, our judges here in Ohio are elected, and therefore respo...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University