Weekend blaze destroys warehouse
By LPR Staff
A pillar of black smoke towered over Mustang Ridge and witnesses reported hearing and seeing explosions as a fire destroyed a warehouse in northern Caldwell County on Sunday.
According to the Caldwell County Fire Marshal”s Public Information Officer Tracy Miller, the initial call to Chisholm Trail Fire-Rescue rang out ju
st after 10 a.m., reporting a structure fire at the Lancaster Distributing complex off Highway 21 on Lone Star Trail. Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters discovered a 26,000 sq. ft. warehouse completely engulfed in flames.
“I was out in the yard mowing my lawn when I saw [the smoke],” said Lancaster employee Romero Arredondo. “I came over and went to move the trucks to try to save them from the fire… a few men that were here helped me get the trucks moved.”
Despite Arredondo”s quick thinking, one truck was scorched as the warehouse burned.
More than 75 firefighters from at least 18 companies in four counties assisted Chisholm Trail Fire-Rescue in fighting the blaze, which was fueled by the paint sundries, including varnishes, thinners and solvents, which were stored in the warehouse. Caldwell County Fire Marshal Jeff Wright noted at the scene that the nature of the chemicals stored in the building made it difficult to fight the fire — the best the firefighters could do for a period of time was contain it.
Some sources said that more than 20 neighbors were evacuated as the plume of flames and toxic smoke shot into the sky. However, brush-fire crews and backup fire engines guarded the homes surrounding the warehouse complex to ensure the safety of the surrounding buildings. No other structures were burned as a result of the fire.
“We could see the paint cans flying and hear things exploding,” one neighbor, who chose not to identify herself, said.
Wright said this was the only major incident Lancaster has ever been involved in.
“This is the first time we”ve had any kind of trouble out here, he said. “And this is bad.”
As temperatures soared over 100 degrees and firefighters dashed in and out of the warehouse, Red Cross volunteers stayed on scene for more than six hours, providing shade, water and snacks for the exhausted and overheated firefighters. Although no serious injuries were reported, some firefighters did suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
On Sunday afternoon, representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined firefighters and Lancaster employees at the scene to determine the most appropriate course of action needed to clean up the mess that the fire left behind.
On Monday, the work started for Lancaster employees.
“At this point, we only have a few employees that we”re allowing on the scene,” said warehouse manager Glen Gill. “We”re cooperating completely with the EPA and TCEQ, as well as with the fire marshal”s investigation.”
According to Gill, no determination had been made as to the cause of the fire. He did, however, address suggestions that an on-site “factory” may have been involved.
“We don”t have a factory here, because we don”t manufacture anything,” Gill said. “We distribute paint sundries, but we don”t make paint, we don”t mix paint, and we don”t make any supplies. We want to make sure that people know that we aren”t a factory out here.”
Gill said that Lancaster Distributing does plan to rebuild the warehouse. First, though, the company has to finish the cleanup and assess the damage.
“All we really know now is that we”re going to clean up and we”re going to rebuild,” he said. “We love being in Caldwell County, and we”re grateful to all of the firefighters that came out here and saved our other buildings and the neighboring properties. This could have been so much worse without them, and we all, from our CEO on down, just really want to thank them.”