Evacuation order of entire Minnesota town lifted

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ST. CHARLES, Minn. -- Residents have started returning to a town in southeastern Minnesota after city officials lifted an evacuation order prompted by a large fire at a meat-processing plant.

The 3,600 residents of the town of St. Charles were evacuated Friday because the fire at North Star Foods Inc. threatened tanks of anhydrous ammonia inside the plant.

City Administrator Nick Koverman said Saturday the evacuation order was lifted after an inspection found the tanks were safe and air quality in the area was acceptable.

About 75 percent of the plant appeared to have been substantially damaged.

The state fire marshal's office was investigating the cause of the blaze.

Plant manager Mark Eads said the fire started above an oven where chickens are cooked.

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