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Two evacuations prompted by Plainwell chemical disposal plant fire

PLAINWELL (WKZO) -- A toxic chemical disposal company in Plainwell has issued an apology for a fire yesterday that forced an area wide evacuation...twice. Once in the afternoon, and then again just before midnight when the fire rekindled.

Officials at Drug and Laboratory Disposal say their emergency plans worked well, allowing all their employees to escape unharmed.

Fire Sgt. David Rantz says a routine chemical process used to neutralize acids apparently generated enough heat to ignite a wooden stairwell inside the building.

He says the danger to the neighborhood occurred not because of the fire but because they feared that unstable chemicals inside the plant might trigger another chemical reaction after the fire was under control.

A temporary shelter was set up at the local high school and several streets down wind were evacuated.

The DEQ says the firm has been cited over two dozen times in the past couple of decades, but most of them went to a previous owner, when the firm was known as A-1 Disposal.

Citations issued in April were for paperwork issues, not for the mishandling of chemicals.