MIDHURST, Ont. (CP) - Fireballs and thick black smoke billowing
into the air from a chemical fire forced as many as 500 people from
their homes in this central Ontario community Monday afternoon.
"About 200 homes - 400 to 500 people - were evacuated," Const.
Tim Garland, a provincial police spokesman, said Monday night.
"Most of them have been cleared to return home," Garland said.
"We've kept an 800-metre radius cleared - it includes a few homes
and some businesses."
Springwater Township officials declared a state of emergency
after the blaze broke out at about 2 p.m. at Philip Environmental
Services.
The company stores and treats hazardous waste and chemicals,
including oil and paint.
Police closed Highways 26 and 27 and surrounding roads for
several hours.
Springwater firefighters had the blaze mostly extinguished by
4:30 p.m., although they were staying on the site through the night
to deal with hot spots.
No one was injured in the blaze, but its smoke and flames could
be seen from kilometres away.
"It was like the fireworks on Canada Day. That's what it
reminded me of," said 15-year-old Chris Greiner.
Residents said the heat could be felt at least 100 metres away.
"There was a big ball of flames. You could see it from the
sideroad," said resident Mike Wolfenden. "It was like a big
mushroom."
"That ball of flame blew way up in the air," said Terry
Wolfenden. "I'm glad I'm not a a volunteer firefighter anymore."
Water was of little use against the fire itself, which was
contained in a structure behind Philip's main building.
Firefighters spent most of their time pouring water on the other
storage tanks to keep them cool and prevent the blaze from
spreading.
Oil, sawdust and some remnants of paint were what burned.
(Barrie
Examiner)


(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)