Firefighters bring Park Hills greenhouse fire under control

Friday, March 7, 2003

PARK HILLS, Mo. -- A commercial greenhouse fire that forced the evacuation of a three-block area and required the response of 34 fire departments was still burning but under control late Thursday, authorities said.

"We're in mop-up mode, but we're keeping our eyes on the fire that's still burning," Park Hills fire chief Robert St. Jemme said.

St. Jemme said the biggest problem firefighters faced were three gas and diesel fuel tanks used for filling the business' delivery trucks. Firefighters were able to protect them and prevent an explosion, he said.

The fire started around 1 p.m. at Dix Greenhouse Inc., a business established in 1938 that specializes in bedding plants.

Five greenhouse buildings were destroyed by the fire, but others were still standing. There were no injuries, or clues as to what caused the fire in St. Francois County in southeast Missouri. The cause is under investigation.

Firefighters built a dike around the perimeter of the greenhouses to catch water that ran through chemicals in the burning buildings. Uncertain whether the runoff would be safe to release to state waterways, St. Jemme said he was awaiting guidance from the state Department of Natural Resources and a hazardous materials crew from Jefferson County.

According to the greenhouse owner, fertilizer was the only hazardous material in the buildings.

Just to be safe, firefighters evacuated a three-block area downwind from the scene and instructed residents in a 10-block area to stay indoors as a precaution.

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