*NEWS*NAT’L COPY CTG GOES UP IN SMOKE
*NEWS*NAT’L COPY CTG GOES UP IN SMOKE
2005-12-13 at 10:20:00 am #13719
Massive fire destroys Santee industrial building
4 mobile homes evacuated; structure lacked sprinklers
– A fire sent flames 200 feet into the air early yesterday, destroying
an industrial building and forcing the evacuation of four mobile homes
before fire crews gained the upper hand.
Dozens of firefighters from
several cities battled a blaze yesterday morning in an industrial
building just west of state Route 67 in Santee. A ground-shaking
explosion soon after crews arrived was attributed to a propane tank in
The 10,000-square-foot building had no sprinkler
system, said Santee Fire Chief Bob Pfohl, who estimated the damage at
$3 million. No one was injured.
The fire was reported at 5:13 a.m.
in the Wheatlands Industrial Park, a cluster of about 45 businesses
just west of state Route 67 and south of the San Diego River. It took
about three hours to extinguish the blaze.
The building that burned
housed AutoVac, a company that manufactures and distributes industrial
vacuum systems, and National Copy Cartridge, which manufactures and
refills toner cartridges for printers and copy machines.
after crews arrived, a ground-shaking explosion startled firefighters
and residents. Authorities later attributed the blast to a propane tank
in the building.
The two-story building was constructed in 1987 and
predates changes to the city building code that require sprinkler
systems in all new buildings, Pfohl said.
“It’s one of the few
un-sprinklered buildings around here,” Pfohl said. “We probably
wouldn’t all be here if it was a sprinklered building,Investigators had
not determined what caused the fire because the building was in danger
of collapsing, said Sgt. Conrad Grayson of the sheriff’s Bomb-Arson
Workers will try to stabilize the rickety remains today before investigators are allowed inside, Grayson said.
The fire started in the rear of the building in the area that houses AutoVac.
in the battle, firefighters atop truck-mounted ladders blasted the
building with four water cannons, each delivering 1,000 gallons per
minute, Pfohl said. Crews also sent streams of water in from ground
Initially, some firefighters were on the roof and considered
entering the building, Pfohl said. Commanders soon determined the
building was doomed.
“It quickly went to three alarms, and they
could see that the roof was unsound,” Pfohl said. “Our primary concern
was defending” nearby buildings.
Black smoke billowed into the air.
Pfohl said firefighters caught a break with the weather conditions.
Because there was little wind, the smoke went straight up and
dissipated instead of drifting into residential areas.
deputies evacuated four homes at the New Frontier Mobile Home Community
on North Magnolia Avenue, adjacent to the fire. Residents left about 6
a.m. and returned shortly before 8 a.m., although officials urged them
to keep their windows closed.
Before the evacuation, the residents heard the thunderous propane-tank explosion.
“I could feel the heat,” said Donna Blum, 67. “I thought the whole place was coming down.”
One of Blum’s neighbors, Verna Leitner, said the fire sent chunks of ashen debris raining down around their homes.
“The ashes are covering my driveway and yard,” Leitner said. “They are big ashes, some as big as a newspaper.”
Reyes, 28, of El Cajon has worked at National Copy Cartridge for six
years. The company has 20 to 25 employees who usually start work at 7
Yesterday morning, Reyes was standing across the street with other workers watching firefighters.
About 80 firefighters were called in, from Santee, Lakeside, La Mesa and San Diego.
crews were called out because of the type of materials inside the
building and the possible toxicity of the smoke, and because of the
large amount of runoff being generated by the firefighting efforts