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Apex Chemical Fire Closes Schools And Evacuation Centers Fill Up

Oct 6, 2006 | www.raleighchronicle.com Wake County emergency officials have released an update on the situation in Apex surrounding a massive hazardous chemical fire that has caused thousands to be evacauted.  Schools have closed in Apex and evacuation orders are still in effect.

According to Wake County officials, evacuation is still recommended within the area bounded by US 1, NC 55 and US 64 highways in Apex and unincorporated areas.

If residents do not feel threatened and prefer to shelter in place they may; however, residents must stay indoors, keep their windows closed, and turn off air conditioning or other air exchange systems.

Travel on NC 55 in this area is now closed, but US 1 and US 64 are still open. Citizens who leave the evacuation area will not be allowed back in.

Green Hope High School at 2500 Carpenter Upchurch Road will serve as the third shelter operated by Wake County Government and the American Red Cross. The shelter was scheduled to open at 8:00am.

Wake officials say that the shelters at Olive Chapel Elementary and Turner Creek Elementary are full and no longer accepting guests.

Citizens are asked to transport themselves to the shelters, but those requiring assistance may call the Wake County Emergency Operations Center at 856-7044.  Officials ask that no one call 911 unless absolutely necessary since the call center has been overwhelmed with phone calls.

The list of schools closed for students and staff today now includes:
Apex Elementary, Apex Middle, Apex High, Baucom Elementary, Lufkin Road Middle, Olive Chapel Elementary and Turner Creek Elementary schools.

All bus routes originating in Apex are cancelled for Friday as well. Green Hope High will close for students at 9:30am.

There will be no bus service to Salem Elementary and Salem Middle schools today due to traffic conditions in Apex.

Salem Elementary and Salem Middle will be open for students and staff.

The Wake County Emergency Operations Center says it continues to monitor the hazardous materials incident at 1005 Investment Drive in Apex.

According to Wake County officials, fire, rescue, HAZMAT and Town of Apex officials said they planned to more fully evaluate the situation at sunrise.

About The Fire

On Thursday night, according to a televised press conference on Time Warner Cable's 24 hour newschannel News14, Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford said that a massive toxic chemical fire that started on Thursday night has forced thousands of people to evacuate.

A potentially deadly chlorine gas cloud was seen at the fire site, said the manager and other "volatile chemicals" are involved in the fire.

Chlorine gas in concentrated form can be deadly and was even used as a weapon in World War I.

"This is an uncontrolled uncontained fire from a company that collects contaminated materials," said Radford.  Radford said that the fire started at a company called "EQ" that collects toxic and hazardous materials and is located in an industrial complex in Apex .

He added that a series of 20 or 30 explosions have occurred and firefighters could not even get within 100 yards of the fire because of the intense heat and hazardous materials.

"This is the worse possible hazardous materials fire [that could occur] anytime anywhere," said Radford in the press conference.

He said that people were being evacuated "between highway 55 south and 55 north on the east side of Apex" and that Apex even used its reverse 911 feature to call every single home in the town of Apex.

Estimates on the number of people that have been evacuated have varied.  One report stated as few as 5,000 people were evacuated while it has been reported by the Associated Press that as many as 16,000 residents have been asked to leave the area.

Two schools were planned on being used as evacuation shelters.  Apex had several buses on hand to help with the evacuations.

Radford said that every single hazardous materials fire crew that could be called in had been requested to respond.  He said that crews from Raleigh and other fire departments had responded.

Due to the fire, Radford said that the emergency command post had to be moved three times and even the 911 call center had to be evacuated.

Crews had not yet begun to fight the fire as of this report filing, but Radford said they had sent a helicopter above the fire to determine the extent of the blaze.

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