Environmental Disaster, Local Edition

newsobserver.com | Apex fire spreads toxic gas

APEX – Fire crews have not begun to fight a fire at a hazardous waste plant that has spread a cloud of dangerous chlorine gas across Apex this morning, forcing more than 15,000 people to evacuate.Officials say they planned to send a hazardous materials crew in at daybreak to evaluate the fire. In the meantime, they’ve been letting it burn, out of concern that pouring water or foam on it would make things worse, said town manager Bruce Radford. The rain that started falling around 7 a.m. “doesn’t make anything better,” Radford said.

The fire that followed a series of late-night explosions at Environmental Quality Co. just east of downtown has closed all Apex schools and school bus routes that start inside the Western Wake town. In addition, the Wake County Public School System said bus transportation elsewhere in Western and Southwestern Wake County would likely be delayed this morning. Green Hope High School in Cary, which is being used a shelter for evacuated residents, will also be closed.

Officials urged people to evacuate an area bounded by U.S. 1, N.C. 55 and U.S. 64 highways in Apex and unincorporated areas. Police are blocking roads into the center of town, and Radford urged everyone to stay away.

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