KCK industrial fire nearly contained, health and environment assessment underway

·3 min read

Update: The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, said Friday the fire had been extinguished and that the air quality was at a level that should be acceptable for most residents.

As firefighters were making progress toward extinguishing a massive industrial blaze at a recycling center in Kansas City, Kansas, that sent plumes of smoke across the city, government officials on Friday said the potential impacts on the environment and public health are being addressed.

As of Friday evening, the raging fire at the Advantage Metals facility on the southern edge of the city had been extinguished by an estimated 80% after burning for nearly 12 hours, according to a news release from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas.

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In the statement late Friday afternoon, Mayor Tyrone Garner sought to assure residents that local and federal government agencies were working hand-in-hand to actively assess and monitor the situation “and any potential hazards.”

“I want to make sure everyone is safe and that we all are adhering to any guidance given from our public health and fire safety authorities,” Garner said.

The local government’s health department was working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to assess and monitor the local air. While there had been no confirmation of a “significant air quality threat,” the Unified Government continued to instruct residents to stay inside with doors and windows closed because of “possible adverse effects on air quality.”

Meanwhile, air monitors in Kansas City, Kansas, showed elevated levels of potentially harmful pollutants known as particulate matter.

The environmental justice organization CleanAirNow has installed 20 monitors in recent years across the Kansas City metro. A monitor in the Armourdale neighborhood had a reading of 174 about 5 hours after the blaze was reported at the facility. The previous weekly average for that site was 47.

“That high of a number is a bad number when you are breathing it in,” Rayan Makarem, CleanAirNow’s climate policy advocate, told The Star.

The fire began around 5:30 a.m. at the metal recycling facility in the 1100 block of South 12th Street, an industrial area on the city’s south side that runs along the Kansas River. Smoke billowed out Friday that could be seen for miles as the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department sent dozens of firefighters along with seven pumper trucks to the area.

An early challenge for KCKFD was a lack of water supply as the nearest hydrant was roughly 1,000 feet from the site and the second closest hydrant was nearly 1 mile away. Despite rain and the efforts of firefighters, the fire continued to burn as neighboring Johnson County sent a 500-gallon foam truck to assist.

The smoke billowing from the Kansas City, Kansas, recycling center Friday morning could be seen for miles, according to Assistant Chief Scott Schaunaman, a spokesman with the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department.
The smoke billowing from the Kansas City, Kansas, recycling center Friday morning could be seen for miles, according to Assistant Chief Scott Schaunaman, a spokesman with the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department.

The event did not result in any serious injuries as of Friday evening. One firefighter was taken to the hospital with what officials say was a minor eye injury.

Kansas City, Kansas, fire department officials were hopeful that they would be able to start sending some firefighters home by nightfall. But a presence was to be kept there to monitor the area and ensure the fire does not flare up again, said KCKFD spokesman Scott Schaunaman.

Unified Government Commissioner Christian Ramirez, whose 3rd District includes the industrial site, said Friday he deeply appreciates the hard work of firefighters and all others involved. He added that he would be working with government officials to address any impacts.

“The most important thing to me is the health and safety of my community,” Ramirez said in the statement. “I will work directly with administration and staff to alleviate any effects of this fire as well as work to ensure that detailed information is shared with the community.”

The Star’s Katie Moore and Matti Gellman contributed to this report.

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