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Iowa town gets back to normal after fire

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Life was returning to normal in Northwood on Friday, the day after the entire northern Iowa town of nearly 2,000 residents was evacuated when a fire broke out at a building used to store chemicals, sending a plume of smoke over homes and businesses.

The evacuation lasted about eight hours, ending about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

The fire was in a building owned by Northwood Ag Products used to store herbicide, insecticide and pesticide, said Mayor Jane Bloomingdale. The building is located at the city-owned airport on the east edge of town, she said.

Wind drove smoke toward town Thursday morning, prompting the voluntary evacuation.

The company owns three buildings at the airport, and one of them contains fertilizer that if burned could have created toxic smoke, said Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

That building did not catch fire, however, but officials wanted to exercise caution because of the chemicals in the building that was burning.

A hazardous materials team tested the city streets and the local nursing home for compounds that would show toxic concentrations of chemicals from the farm chemicals, and no dangerous levels were found, Baskins said. That cleared the way for people to return.

With snow falling and the National Weather Service predicting a dangerous blizzard beginning Thursday afternoon, officials wanted to get people back home before the weather deteriorated.