CHARLESTON — The Charleston Ice House is a complete loss following an early morning fire Friday that spewed toxic ammonia fumes into the air, causing authorities to warn the public to stay as far away as possible. No injuries were reported.
As of 11:30 a.m. all precautions related to the Charleston Ice House fire, such as shelter-in-place and evacuations regarding the hazmat response had been lifted. At that time, the toxic plume had dissipated enough that officials said there was no further impact to citizens, and firefighters were moping up the scene and addressing residual hot spots.
At approximately 7:45 a.m. Friday, as Port maintenance staff were making daily rounds of marina facilities, staff thought they saw flames within the Charleston Ice Plant building, which is located across from the U.S. Coast Guard Station, according to a press release from the International Port of Coos Bay.
"Staff immediately followed all emergency response protocol to de-energize the electricity and evacuate the building and immediate area," the release said.
The appropriate authorities and emergency response teams were promptly notified, including the National Response Center, U.S. Coast Guard, Oregon Emergency Response System, and 911. The Charleston Fire Department was the first to arrive on scene followed by the Coos Bay Fire Department, North Bend Fire Department and regional hazmat division.
Authorities confirmed that the Charleston Ice Plant was on fire and releasing ammonia into surrounding areas. At 10 a.m., the plant was declared a total constructive loss following the direction of local fire departments and the regional hazmat division.
"Under the guidance of local authorities, Port staff determined that the best course of action was to let the Charleston ice plant fire run its course while first responders remained on standby," said the release. "Fortunately, a strong south wind pushed smoke out over the bay and out to sea throughout the course of the fire."
The Charleston Marina and RV park were evacuated at approximately 10 a.m., with Port staff going door-to-door and boat-to-boat to ensure the safety of individuals within the Marina complex.
The state fire marshal is investigating the incident. Access to the Charleston Marina has been reopened to the public following clearance from emergency responders. However, to ensure public safety no access by road or water will be allowed in and around the Charleston Ice Plant dock.
"The Port would like to thank and recognize the phenomenal efforts of the various responding units," said the release. "Port staff are now working to secure the Charleston Ice Plant property. The property will be inspected in partnership with all necessary authorities to ensure that all potential hazards are secured and removed."
Port staff are working to create a short-term plan to obtain commercial-grade ice to serve the Charleston fishing fleet, while longer-range planning is completed for the construction of a new ice plant facility.