Flames leaped out of the former Langford Distribution agricultural chemical warehouse early Monday morning causing a large fire and hazardous materials response, Waco fire Deputy Chief R.M. Bergerson said.
Nearly 40 firefighters battled the blaze at 301 S. 17th St. after smoke was seen in the area shortly after 6:30 a.m. Fire officials were concerned about the possible existence of pesticides in the building as well as the safety of the nearby 17th Street viaduct.
Using 10 fire vehicles, firefighters were able to get the fire under control at the 17,000-square-foot frame building and protect nearby buildings. The contents of the building remained unknown Monday morning, but fire officials warned people to stay away from the site.
“Historically, the building was a supply warehouse for a retailer that sold pesticides,” Bergerson said. “So out of an abundance of caution, we called out our Hazmat crews.”
Waco Fire Marshal Kevin Vranich said fire marshals inspected the building this year and insecticides were inside the building then.
The fire caused a giant plume of smoke that drifted over downtown Waco. Hazmat crews did an air quality check around the building Monday morning and determined air quality was safe in the general area.
“Initial reports was that smoke was seen coming around the 17th street bridge, but while they were en route, we started getting multiple reports,” Bergerson said. “The call was upgraded to a commercial structure response and a fully involved building was reported.”
Flames were seen shooting into the air as seven fire engines and three fire trucks were used to spray water on the building. Witnesses said they saw and heard explosions coming from the building a little before 7 a.m.
Traffic lights were out in the area as street crews put out temporary stop signs to help with traffic. Police blocked off roadways around 17th and 16ths streets to help firefighters.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the 17th Street viaduct between Webster and Franklin avenues will remain temporarily shut down for emergency response. He asked drivers to find alternate routes as it was unknown how long the closures will go on.
No cause had been determined Monday morning. Bergerson said crews will remained at the property throughout the day.
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