Officers from the Salinas Fire Department have announced that evacuation and shelter orders have been lifted on the spot by the Taylor Farm incident.
“I am very grateful for the patience of our residents. I acknowledge the inconvenience over the last more than 17 hours. Their safety has been our number one priority,” said Mayor Kimbley Craig. “A big question I ask our community is to stay away from the area.”
The mayor added that it is still an active scenario.
Schools in the Salinas Union School District will reopen to students on Friday.
Parts of southern Salinas were evacuated Wednesday night after fire crews responded to a fire at Taylor Farms.
At around 7:15 p.m., Salinas firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the Abbott Street business. When firefighters arrived, they reported that the building was “very involved in the fire.”
Not long after, crews learned that the fire had caused a potential explosion and a cloud of ammonia.
A shelter order was issued on the spot for the surrounding areas and city officials asked the resident to close the windows and turn off the ventilation systems. Firefighters say they are “acting with great caution.”
As of Thursday morning, more than 22 firefighters across Monterey County had responded to the incident at the Taylor Farm processing plant, according to Salinas officials.
“The fire has advanced to the point that it poses a significant risk to a possible explosion of ammonia found at the plant,” said Deputy Chief of Fire Sam Klemek. “For that reason, we have removed our units to a safe area and we have begun evacuation warnings from the area near the plant.”
Some 2,700 people living closer to the plant were told to evacuate, while another 35,000 were ordered to take refuge inside their homes, the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services said in a statement.
It is unclear how the fire started, but firefighters said there were employees doing maintenance on the premises when the fire was reported.
There is a shelter order in place for the areas south of Constitution Boulevard to Spreckels Avenue and east of Main Street. However, changes in wind direction can move the cloud and affect different areas, firefighters said.
Evacuation zones may change as the incident progresses.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) response teams are on track to address “the potential of an ammonia cloud,” city officials said.
Salinas public information officer Sophia Rome says a Hazmat team has been deployed to analyze and assess any possible concerns about ammonia.
“We are in a transition period, but I know the team is assessing potential hazards,” he said.
Firefighters and other emergency personnel are on standby at Salinas Fire Station 3 as teams assess conditions and damage caused by the night fire. An evacuation order for a one-mile radius near the facility is still in effect.
Rome says a more expansive shelter is still in place for the surrounding areas and a warning for the North Alisal area.
“So what that means is that if you’re in the evacuation zone, you have to evacuate,” Roma said. “If you’re in the shelter area, that means staying inside where you are as long as possible.”
Rome urged residents to turn off any ventilation systems, HVAC, keep pets and animals indoors, close all windows and stay tuned for updates.
“Just be aware of what’s going on and be prepared in case something changes,” he said.
Firefighters on the scene say they have experience handling ammonia leaks and hope to stay in place for at least the next few hours or more while things continue to be evaluated.
All schools in the Salinas Union School District will be closed.
The Monterey County Office of Emergency Services has notified the school district of the shelter order at the site affecting most of southern Salinas. Although it is a small part of the city, the map of the affected areas has grown to include more than half of the students served by the district.
Shortly after the announcement was made, more than a dozen high school students walking to their campuses could be seen checking their smartphones to read about the nearest one.
The following primary schools are closed by order of shelter on site:
- Lincoln Primary
- Monterey Park City Hall
- Los Padres Primary School
- Sherwood Primary
However, the school district of the city of Salinas is in the spring break. No students or school staff would be on campus on Thursday, district officials said.
Maintenance staff were instructed not to leave the four primary schools affected by the shelter order on site. According to district officials, the district office will be open long enough for staff who do not live in the shelter area to retrieve the necessary equipment and work from home.
Businesses, schools and residents of refuge and evacuation areas may have restricted access. The community is urged to continue to follow the shelter order at the site of the affected areas and remain closed.
Residents should call their employer or school if they have questions about whether the business or school will be closed.
In addition, there is the potential for a total closure of a one-mile radius of Highway 101 in both directions. Firefighters are urging the community to avoid the road and use Old Stage Road as an alternative route.
Sheyanne Romero is a journalist for the USA TODAY Network and manages content for the Salinas Californian.
South Salinas under shelter-in-place order after fire at Taylor Farms Source link South Salinas under shelter-in-place order after fire at Taylor Farms