Updated: Fire at Piper CIty soybean facility under investigation

Updated: Fire at Piper CIty soybean facility under investigation

PIPER CITY — Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office are looking into the cause of a fire at a Piper City soybean facility on Thursday.

Nobody was reported injured.

Piper City Fire Chief Tony Lane said that firefighters were called to the Precision Soya facility at 604 S. Green St. on Piper City’s southwest side at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

When firefighters arrived, they saw what looked like smoke coming out of the top of a building.

Firefighters from Chatsworth, Gilman and Roberts provided mutual aid, and a two-block area was evacuated round the facility, he said.

“We evacuated about 15 residents in the area,” Lane said.

Classes were canceled at nearby Tri-Point Junior High/Elementary School, and a portion of U.S. 24 was closed from Illinois 115 to Ford County Road 200 East.

Lane said that firefighters initially believed that dangerous fumes were created when a pesticide reacted with water.

Dennis Higgins, Ford County’s Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said the pesticide product taken into the facility in canisters was aluminum phosphide, Higgins said.

“It’s a danger when it’s wet. It’s a poison. So ingestion or inhalation of any of the fumes would be potentially a huge respiratory problem,” Higgins said. “That’s the reason we evacuated part of the area.”

Lane said that a hazardous materials team from Champaign was called to Piper City to help out.

“When the hazardous materials team from Champaign gained access to the building, they took samples of the air and determined it was not a pesticide issue after all,” Lane said. “Then they looked inside the building and found out it was a fire. It turned out that chemicals had nothing to do with the fire.”

According to Lane, the building was used for the fumigation of soybeans.

Lane said that firefighters had the fire under control by 12:30 p.m., and the evacuation ended at 1:30 p.m.

U.S. 24 reopened for traffic about 2:30 p.m., he said.

He said classes will resume at the school on Friday.

According to Lane, it was too early to determine a dollar amount to the damage.

Precision Soya is based in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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