10,000 Iowans Flee Toxic Fire
Firefighters working for nearly 22 hours controlled a blaze Tuesday that spewed clouds of toxic smoke from an abandoned sewage plant, forcing more than 10,000 persons to flee their homes and prompting police to close the city to outsiders.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Don Canney announced shortly after noon that “the emergency situation that existed is now ended” and that residents could return home.
City Fire Marshal Phil Saunders said firefighters finally broke through a concrete dome at the plant, allowing bulldozers to pile dirt on the fire and stem the thick, billowing clouds of smoke.
“It looks like we’re on top of it and we’re thankful for that,” Saunders said. “We’re breathing a little easier now.”
No serious injuries were reported as a result of the blaze, but 56 persons complaining of scratchy throats, burning eyes and breathing difficulties were treated and released at St. Luke’s and Mercy hospitals, officials said.
The blaze was believed to have been started accidentally by a workman using a cutting torch, fire officials said.