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An industrial fire broke out at a Garcia Warehouse in Calexico, Calif., on May 16, threatening nearby businesses. The fire began around 4 p.m. as a small blaze, which neighboring stores did not see as an imminent threat to safety or business operations. Soon though, the flames grew, calling on more than 60 firefighters from areas as far as Yuma, Mexicali and the Naval Air Force Facility to arrive at the scene to help battle a fire that would eventually engulf the entire warehouse, leaving behind nothing but a pile of ashes.
The fire was so intense that it bent heavy metal poles under the effects of the heat, which spread rapidly. Upon arrival, firefighters entered the building, but the flames quickly expanded to engulf them. A team was sent out immediately to recover the crew, which was evacuated through a hole in the back wall that was cut for their escape.
"Everything just started coming down as the heat melted it," Calexico Firefighter Ryan McEachen said, according to Imperial Valley Press. "The fire was so hot it burnt through the wall."
As fire crews shot water into the building to extinguish the flames, a loading dock in the rear of the site began filling with runoff water, creating a pool approximately 6 feet deep. At one point during the 8 hour ordeal, a firefighter lost balance and became submerged in the ashen pool before climbing back out.
Business owners at the adjacent strip mall worried that their buildings and customers would be affected, and after the flames began to fully overwhelm the warehouse, retailers shut their doors to the public and evacuated to stay safe.
The fire continued to rage through the warehouse, which housed materials and supplies including highly flammable Christmas decorations such as artificial trees and nativity scenes.
It took until midnight for the blaze to be safely suppressed, and firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night, extinguishing spots that had reignited. The cause of the fire is unknown and is now under investigation by the Calexico Fire Department.
Growing concerns over fire safety
The next day, shop owners arrived to a scene where the warehouse had been reduced to ash, with Christmas music playing from stray decorative items that had not been entirely destroyed by the blaze. Fire crews had prevented the flames from spreading to local businesses, but Judy Aceves, who owns a recycling center across from the warehouse, was still distraught. She told local CBS affiliate KSWT that she spent the night of the fire preparing new safety plans and deciding to discard all unnecessary flammable items.
Industrial fires can happen at any time, which is why all businesses should be equipped with industrial fire alarms as well as flame detector sensors that can alert everyone on site to the pressing danger of a fire that has already begun. Warehouses such as the Garcia Warehouse, which are home to highly flammable objects, should be on the alert for any and all fire hazards.
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.