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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 7, 2007, 9:25 p.m.

Chemcentral update

Fire Chief Richard "Smokey" Dyer and D.A. Christian, manager of the Emergency Management Office (a division of the City Manager's Office) conducted a news conference at 8 p.m. to give an update on the explosion and fire that occurred at the Chemcentral plant at approximately 2:20 p.m. on Feb. 7.

This is a summary of the situation:

-- The cause of the explosion is unknown at this time.

-- Water quality has not been affected.

-- One Chemcentral employee and one Fire Department employee received minor injuries. Their current status is unknown.

-- Within a 1-mile radius around the plant, located at 910 N. Prospect Ave., evacuations have been recommended. There is a mandatory evacuation within five blocks of the plant being maintained by the Police Department. These evacuation requirements will remain in effect through the night. Beyond that, it is not known how long these evacuations will remain in effect.

-- The Police Department is maintaining the following traffic control points:

Front Street east of the Isle of Capri Casino
Front Street and Kansas
Gardner and Kansas
Gardner and Monroe
Gardner and Bellefontaine Street
Gardner and Agnes
Guinotte and Prospect
Guinotte and Montgall
Guinotte and Chestnut
Front and Riverfront
Rochester and Garland.

-- Residents from the evacuation area should go to the American Red Cross shelter at North Kansas City High School, located 620 N.E. 23rd St. in North Kansas City. At this time, eight people are at the shelter and it is expected that eight more will arrive.

-- The Fire Department is remaining in a defensive mode to ensure safety for personnel. Six Fire Department units remain on standby at a safe distance and the staffing has been reduced to 50 firefighters. The intent is to make an attack on the remaining fire during daylight hours, based on safety concerns. Due to the intensity of the fire and the need to exercise environmental caution, the fire is being permitted to burn itself out. The incident command center remains in place. There is no immediate danger to the public.

-- Though there is no risk to people in the downtown area, officials ask that people not come to the scene to observe and that people who have respiratory problems, such as asthma, exercise caution and take medicine as needed.

-- The EPA released this statement, "At field locations we are monitoring for particulate matter 10 (PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). At fixed locations we are monitoring for PM2.5, SO2, and NOx. The data we have thus far shows that levels for all monitored contaminants are well below the EPA's national ambient air quality standards, which are health based standards."

-- The Aviation Department has issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) for pilots flying into Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport advising them of the fire 2 miles to the east and its potential impact to visibility. The cloud of smoke appears to cross the paths of inbound flights, however, aircraft are landing and departing. There have been some media reports that pilots are being advised to wash aircraft upon landing due to airborne chemicals, but this is not true. Wash facilities are available as usual.

-- The Emergency Operations Center was activated at 2:25 p.m. Its activation level was reduced from Level 3 to Level 2 as of 8 p.m. and will remain activated to monitor the situation overnight with reduced staffing.

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