Big hazmat fire at Interstate 10, Interstate 17 stack in Phoenix

PHOENIX - More freeway lanes have reopened as crews continue to work a fire scene along the Interstate 10 and Interstate 17 stack in central Phoenix Thursday night.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said the single-lane ramp connecting westbound I-10 to southbound I-17 is open. The left lane of the transition from I-10 to I-17 northbound has opened. The right lane will remain closed until it is inspected by ADOT bridge engineers Friday morning.

Earlier in the day Air15 video showed massive flames at what is believed to be Breecher Sales, Inc.

“What caught my eye was black smoke,” said Martin Gutierrez, who works a block away from the fire.

“And it escalated so quick -- six explosions, big explosions. You could actually see them go up in the air,” he said.  

Viewer video from the scene showed flames ripping into the air just before an explosion was heard. Watch the video in the player above.


Phoenix Fire Capt. Jonathan Jacobs said the fire that started just before noon was considered a hazardous materials incident.

The engine crew from Fire Station 3 was the first to arrive at the scene, with acting Capt. Steve Pacimeo.

“There is an adrenaline rush, you try to stay as calm as you can especially when you're sitting in the front seat and you're in charge," said Pacimeo.

Firefighters could see the thick black smoke from the firehouse and said they instantly knew this fire could be big.

Almost immediately fire crews said they were faced with small explosions.

“There were some large popping noises, probably propane tanks blowing up, and some shrapnel flying through the air from those,” Pacimeo told ABC15.

But soon the explosions became larger, as many as four to six in a row, according to Jacobs.

“It seemed like magnesium was blowing up and that one was a little different. It was kind of like an orange rain of fireballs coming down,” Pacimeo described.

Firefighters say they do encounter small propane explosions, but the magnesium explosions were something entirely different.

“You don’t get those type of explosions. It can be scary. But you just have to stay calm and keep everyone safe,” Pacimeo said.

Multiple materials were involved, including stored compressed gases, flammable metals and three structures, Jacobs said.

Several explosions with natural gas tanks also occurred, Jacobs said.

Officials say firefighters are assessing damage to structures, extinguishing hot spots and monitoring for hazardous substances

Firefighters say some sort of welding activity sparked the blaze. They say it quickly spread among three buildings. One of the workers suffered minor burns, according to Jacobs.

No other injuries were reported.

Some workers in that industrial area of the city worried about their safety.

“We got an oil refinery next to us, a paper mill behind us. So that was kind of scary,” Gutierrez said.

More than 50 firefighters defensively tackled the fire. They got it contained in about two hours.

“We just lost some buildings and everyone gets to go home to their family,” said Pacimeo as he got ready to head back to the station.

Firefighters plan to monitor the area, which is still smoldering, for several more hours.

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