ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Residents living in city neighborhoods that surround the Chemisphere Corporation plant are being allowed to return to their homes.
At the height of the fire an estimated 500 people were evacuated as clouds of chemical-laced smoke and fire shot up six stories into the air.
Residents KMOX spoke to describe searing heat, smoke and explosions that lit up the entire sky.
With the fire now under control, firemen are beginning to pack up their hoses and gear. Hazmat teams are moving in, in an attempt to determine the cause of the fire.
Our earlier story:
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Firefighters are battling a huge chemical fire on the west side of St. Louis, which has forced the evacuation of several nearby homes and the hospitalization of three firefighters.
Reports are that several tanks of acetone and ethanol caught fire around 2:30 a.m. Monday at the Chemisphere Corp. in the 2100 block of Cliffton Avenue. The first 911 call came in at 2:33 with reports of flames at the site.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says three firefighters have been taken to the hospital following an explosion but that they are in stable condition.
“This is an ongoing situation, we do have some hot spots that we’re concerned about and we still have crews inside,” Jenkerson said. “We got it under control. It hasn’t been declared under control but we got everything knocked down and all the people in position right now.”
Jenkerson adds that it’s impossible to determine the cause of the fire at this time.
“It’s way too early to tell because the amount of involvement when we showed up on the scene was basically the entire yard,” Jenkerson said.
About 500 residents within a three-block radius of the fire have been evacuated. The fire closed nearby Interstate 44 eastbound until just after 6:00. Westbound lanes remain closed at Kingshighway. Jenkerson estimated around 5:15 this morning that it would take at least ninety minutes before the interstate could be reopened.
Among those forced to evacuate was a woman named Amanda along with her two puppies. When asked by KMOX if she was told of the potential dangers the chemicals may pose, she said residents have not been informed.
Authorities say they have called in heavy crash tenders from Lambert Airport, which are equipped with special foam cannons that could help knock down the flames faster.
Jenkerson ended a brief press conference by touting Chemisphere’s history of safety and cooperation with fire officials.
“With any kind of manufacturing facility the fire department’s always there, we always do a pre-plan and get in and do a lot of inspections,” Jenkerson said. “They’ve always allowed us in whenever we wanted to go in.”
Stay with KMOX and KMOX.com for more information on this developing story.