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More help coming for Finley residents caught in Lineage’s plume of smoke. Gift box for fans

Finley residents who are most exposed to smoke from the Kennewick Lineage cold storage facility will receive additional help Sunday.

The warehouse has burned and smoldered, sending plumes of smoke into area homes and businesses since April 21.

The Benton Franklin Health District is working with other agencies to distribute fans equipped with filters to help purify indoor air during a drive-thru event on Sunday, June 2.

The equipment is intended for Finley residents who live approximately 1 km from the burning warehouse and whose health is most at risk from smoke because they have asthma, heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The health district will also have more N95 masks to distribute, after hosting an initial drive-thru event to distribute masks Thursday evening.

The Sunday drive-thru will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the south parking lot of River View High School, 36509 S. Lemon Drive, Kennewick. Participants must enter the parking lot from Game Farm Road.

Finley residents who are homebound and need masks or a filtered fan can call 509-460-4205.

Agencies working with the health district to provide fans and filters are Benton County Commissioner Will McKay, Benton County Fire District 1, Benton Clean Air Agency, Department of Ecology Washington State and the Washington State Department of Health.

Air quality near the Lineage warehouse has been rated “hazardous” at times, and a recently installed air monitor at Finley Middle School showed air quality rated “unhealthy” some mornings.

Local government agencies held a public meeting in Finley Wednesday evening and heard from residents about the need for additional help, especially for elderly and low-income residents facing weeks of smoke from the fire.

Finley residents said they or their neighbors suffered smoke-related health problems, including a child waking up at night with nosebleeds and vomiting and a teenager suffering from pneumonia. Other residents said they suffered migraines, bronchitis and frequent visits to the doctor as the smoke exacerbated their asthma or other breathing problems.

One woman said her pets avoided drinking from smoke-filled water bowls.

Local officials said at the meeting they would ask Lineage to cover the costs of the emergency response to help residents. Lineage did not send a representative to the meeting, either in person or via an online video link.

The Benton Franklin Health District has created an information and resources page for those affected by smoke from the fire at bfhd.wa.gov.

Benton and Franklin Health Officer Dr. Steve Krager says staying indoors is safer when smoke is present. If people must be outside in the smoke, they should wear an N95 mask to reduce their exposure to harmful particles in the smoke, he said.

“This is crucial to protecting your respiratory health, especially for people with lung or heart disease,” he said.

Lineage hired a contractor to begin demolishing part of the exterior portion of the 12-acre building and removing debris, including leftover vegetables stored in the warehouse. This work should allow firefighters to move safely closer to where the fire continues to burn or smolder, in the center of the huge building.

As the building is still on fire, the cause of the fire has not been determined.