IEI fire costs to county reach $1.5 million

By BRETT DUNLAP

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va.  — The cost of the response to the Intercontinental Export-Import Plastics warehouse fire is already over $1.5 million as bills start rolling into the Wood County Commission from agencies and groups.

Twisted metal is all that is left of the structures, seen from Broadway Avenue, which formed the former Ames Plant, which was destroyed by fire.
(News and Sentinel photo by Jeff Baughan)

County Administrator Marty Seufer presented bills from local fire departments at Monday’s county commission meeting. Many of the bills presented detailed accounts of time on the scene by firefighters and for equipment as well as the cost for damaged and lost equipment and related expenses as departments responded.

County officials said they have also received bills from special contractors who did work on the scene of the fire on Camden Avenue that burned for a week, starting early Oct. 21.

”The information we have to date would put the cost at over $1.5 million,” Commission President Blair Couch said. ”If you look at the county finances, our Rainy Day and Special Building Fund totaled about $1.2 million.”

Before a commitment by Gov. Jim Justice to provide state funds to pay the cost of fighting the fire, county officials were worried the cost would have fallen squarely on the county’s shoulders.

”We did not exaggerate when we said this could have bankrupt the county,” Couch said. ”Without the governor’s assistance, that fire would still be burning right now.”

Without the work of special contractors, like Specialized Professional Services Inc. (SPSI), the fire could have burned for three to four weeks, officials said.

Couch said they are still awaiting bills from some fire departments and environmental companies that monitored air quality.

”We are trying to get all of the bills together so we can present one billing to the state of West Virginia for reimbursement,” Couch said.

Officials believe they need to present all of the costs at once. They believe the state may make out a single payment once presented with a bill.

”We are all concerned that if we send one bill, they will think it is over,” Couch said. ”We want all of the bills so they can bite the number hard when it arrives.”

Officials discussed instituting a deadline for departments and groups to have their bills submitted. No action was taken.

”I’m afraid once they write that check they are done,” Seufer said.

Officials want to include as many departments and companies as possible and are encouraging groups and organizations to get their bills in as soon as possible.

The county is looking to the property owner, SurNaik Holdings of WV, to cover expenses relating to the fire or through its insurance carrier.

County officials are not sure who Naik’s insurance carrier is.

”We have not heard anything about what their liability insurance covers,” Couch said.

They have assurances from Saurabh Naik, head of the company, that costs for the fire departments and others involved would have expenses covered.

Of the bills submitted Monday, the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department incurred $10,910 for 27 lost and damaged pieces equipment. It had 27 members of the department respond who put in a total of 1,395 hours on the scene.

The Parkersburg Fire Department, which is a paid fire department, incurred 60.5 hours of overtime. The Tower One truck was used for 72 hours while Ladder Five was used for 17 hours and Engine 6 was used for 12 hours.

The Washington Bottom Volunteer Fire Department had nine people on scene for a total of 419 hours. One of the trucks pumped water for 16 hours before it developed an electrical malfunction and the department had to rent another truck which pumped water for an additional 24 hours. Its lost/damaged equipment came out to $200 and expenses for food and water came out to $180.

The Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department had 12 firefighters on scene for a total of 256 hours. Engine 8 pumped water for 36 hours. Its cost for lost/damaged equipment was $1,560.

The Eastwood Volunteer Fire Department had 19 firefighters for a total of 690.5 hours. Engine 66 was on the scene for 199 hours and Tanker 62 was on the scene for 88 hours. The department had 13 missing pieces of equipment.

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department had seven firefighters for a total of 15 hours and 48 minutes.

The Deerwalk Volunteer Fire Department had 17 firefighters who were on scene for a total of 352.5 hours. It submitted receipts for diesel fuel totaling $378.

The county identified the departments and groups that would be billing for services related to the fire and told them to have their bills in soon. They are still expecting a bill from the Marietta Fire Department.

”Hopefully, in the next few days we will have them to be able to do something with them,” Seufer said. ”We are trying to get as close to 100 percent before we send them out.”

Once they get all of the bills in, county officials want to submit copies of the total bills to Naik and the office of West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to make sure the appropriate people have it.

”We are on the hook until we get the money,” Seufer said.

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