No asbestos in the air after warehouse fire, DEQ says

Cleanup crews in protective gear vacuum up pieces of debris along Northwest Naito Parkway Friday that's suspected of containing asbestos from a Sunday warehouse fire nearby. (KATU Photo)

Air tests show virtually none of the asbestos from Sunday’s massive warehouse fire is in the air, at least not yet.

Cleanup crews across the city, and a new strategy at the site of the fire, are aimed at keeping the danger to a minimum.

Firefighters were called just before 10 p.m. Sunday to the warehouse near the north end of North River Street, almost underneath the Fremont Bridge. The fire was so large it sent smoke and ash raining down on the bridge.

The Oregon Department of Quality found some of the debris contained asbestos, which can cause health problems if someone is exposed to it over a long period of time. The agency said asbestos was laid under roofing material at the warehouse, and some of it was thrown into the air when the building went up in flames.

Surveys now show some of that material traveled two miles from the fire site.

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On Friday, a cleanup crew in protective suits and respirators used vacuums to sweep up small particles of suspected asbestos along Northwest Naito Parkway.

“We’ve had air monitoring done yesterday and today, and really for the past few days, (and it’s) showing really positive results,” said Matthew Van Sickle, with DEQ. “Basically no detects, which means that we are not finding asbestos in the air. So that’s really good news for the public.

With drier weather, authorities brought in a huge mist-making machine to the fire site. It’s designed to keep debris as wet as possible and keep asbestos dust from blowing out of the area.

The DEQ said the mist machine will keep running at the site 24/7, at least until cleanup starts. Right now, the agency said some of the debris is still too hot to start that work.

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