WORTH COUNTY, Iowa – May 20th marks three months since an entire North Iowa town was evacuated because of a chemical fire.
It happened at Northwood Ag Products in Northwood.
As a precaution, residents at homes, businesses and even a nursing home were forced to leave.
Eventually things opened back up in town after air checks came back clear.
But, the impacts of that day are still being felt now.
Northwood Ag Products looks different than it did three months ago.
But even First Assistant Chief Mitch Hanson with the Northwood Fire Department can’t get the image of February 20th out of his head.
“It’s a lot to process all at once in the heat of the moment. We just wanted to protect the people of the town, so we did evacuate the town, and I’m glad in the end that we did do that,” said Hanson.
But now that three months have gone by, the bills are starting to come in. The city of Northwood, Worth County, and the county’s emergency management team all say the evacuation isn’t costing them very much. It’s a different story for the fire department.
“We had a lot of man hours in, but our biggest costs comes after the clean up of the fire. We had to throw away several sets of turn-out gear, several lengths of hose,” said Hanson.
The neighboring city of Kensett helped with the evacuation by providing shelter for evacuees. Mayor Tom Dakin tells us, “thankfully everything was handled through volunteers, so his city isn’t seeing any bills”.
“No, it’s cost very little because an awful lot of things were volunteered in the first wave, and then of course, we started getting help from the unusual, such as Poet bringing in a truck load of water,” said Dakin.
Mayor Dakin says looking back on this months later, he’s still very happy with how his community responded.
“How proud I am of the town, because we had about 15 minutes notice before the first evacuees showed up, and within 45 minutes everybody that was pouring into the community center was coming in to the smell of fresh baked cookies,” said Dakin.
“Very proud with other departments; law enforcement, EMA, a lot of different parts of the state helping out just to make things possible like that. Just that everybody worked together was great,” said Hanson.
Fire department officials tell us the damage estimate is about $50,000.
We reached out to Northwood Ag Products for comment.They declined our requests.