Tanks explode during large fire in Phoenix

Posted at 12:09 AM, Sep 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-10 03:09:14-04

Fire crews responded to a large fire that burned south of downtown on Wednesday afternoon.

A large plume of smoke was seen burning south of downtown Phoenix near 19th Avenue and Broadway.

"When those big explosions happen we can actually feel the heat," said Mark Forti, who works at a nearby business. "I've never seen anything like this. This is actually scaring the heck out of everyone here." 

"You could feel the ground almost shake from the explosions," Harold Smalley, who works down the street, said. "It was terrifying, it was almost like being in a way zone in Vietnam or something."

Phoenix Fire Captain Larry Subervi said multiple storage tanks burned and a total of 100 people were evacuated earlier in the day from the immediate area. 

Multiple tanks with automotive fuels such as used motor oil and brake fluid exploded, sending barrels into the air like "projectiles," Subervi said. One even landed next to a fire crew, he said.

Subervi said the facility had 55-gallon drums and a 4,000 gallon tank.

"We want to let the community know, we didn't have any breach of oil out of those tanks" Michael Chirumbolo of SRC Oil and Fuel said after the business erupted in flames Wednesday afternoon. 

He said they're lucky several 20,000 gallon tanks didn't burst. 

"You can see with all the fire water and everything, it did its job," Chirumbolo said, as he showed the design of the structure. "If this wasn't designed like this, all of this product would have gone out into the street."

On the street, that debris and and chemical-filled water flowed fast, as crews tried to block it from the sewer runoffs.

At one point in the process of battling the flames, firefighters were pulled from their ladder lines because the smoke was so dense.

By 2:55 p.m., the smoke and flames had significantly lessened as crews gained control of the fire. 

Crews were testing the air quality by the late afternoon and checking the facility for "hot spots." Phoenix Fire officials have blocked off nearby storm drains to prevent any chemical-contaminated debris from entering drains.

A firefighter on scene told ABC15 that contaminated water flowed blocks away from the fire and crews are working with the Environmental Protection Agency.

We have reached out to the EPA and Phoenix Fire Department for more information.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Stay with, ABC15 Mobile and ABC15 News as updates come into the newsroom.