Farm Supply Fire Forces Thousands to Evacuate in Ala.

Fire erupted Tuesday at a farm-supply store housing dangerous chemicals, prompting the evacuation of about 3,500 people, authorities said.


SLOCOMB, Ala. (AP) -- Fire erupted Tuesday at a farm-supply store housing dangerous chemicals, prompting the evacuation of about 3,500 people, authorities said.

No immediate injuries were reported after the blaze broke out at Mathis Farm Supply, a few miles from the Florida line.

Scott Adcock, a spokesman for the state's Emergency Management Agency, said schoolchildren were taken to a high school stadium and an elementary school gym, and shelters were opened at two churches.

Hazardous-materials teams were sent from Dothan and the Army's Fort Rucker to the store, which authorities said contained numerous fertilizer products.

Adcock said tests showed that the thick, white smoke billowing from the blaze was not toxic. However, about 500 people were expected to remain in church shelters until Wednesday because smoke continued to pour from the building, he said.

Others were returning to their homes Tuesday evening as the fire was brought under control.

Adcock said authorities initially believed the southern Alabama town's entire population of 4,200 people needed to be evacuated, but the estimate was later lowered.