Paula Levesque

Today in fire history; $100 million in damage to multi-tenanted warehouse

Blog Post created by Paula Levesque Employee on Aug 2, 2014

On August 2, 2000 a fire was discovered in a multi-tenanted warehouse in Phoenix, AZ at approximately 4:58 p.m. By the time the fire was extinguished the next day, it had completely destroyed the 85,000 sq ft warehouse. The damage to property and the commodities stored inside from the fire has been estimated at over $100 million.

Two tenants occupied the warehouse: a home and garden supply company and a pharmaceuticals distribution operation. The fire began in the home and garden supply portion of the building.

A first alarm structural response was assigned to the vicinity of 38th Place and Broadway as reports of the fire continued to pour into the 911 center. The Tempe Battalion Chief arrived shortly before the first Phoenix Fire Department units at 5:01 p.m. and reported a working fire in a warehouse building. The Tempe Battalion Chief established command and set up a temporary command post on 38th Place opposite the east side of the building. Phoenix Engine 23 was the next to arrive at 5:02 p.m. E23 established a water supply and proceeded to a position at the southeast corner of the building and began to apply water on the fire with the deluge gun on the engine. Engine 272 arrived at 5:05 p.m. and then supplied the automatic sprinkler system within the building through the fire department connection on 38th Place. E23 was confronted with a rapidly spreading fire within the building and numerous exposure fires comprised of stored materials outside the southeast corner of the building. At 5:07 p.m., Engine, Rescue and Ladder 22 arrived on the west side of the building and at 5:11 pm. reported that a portion of the west tilt-panel concrete wall was leaning outward and a collapse hazard existed. By 5:17 p.m. most of the south wall had collapsed. Fire had now begun to spread throughout the home and garden portion of the warehouse. A solid concrete wall separated the two sections of the building. However, as large section of the outer concrete panel walls began to collapse, the integrity of the wall between the two sections of the building became a concern.

Four alarms and numerous special requests for apparatus were dispatched to the scene throughout the next several hours and into the next day. By morning, on August 3, the entire building and all contents were destroyed. The fire department maintained a fire watch for several days extinguishing hot spots and monitoring the hazardous contents. Five fire fighters (including the crew from E23) were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Several police officers that were handling site access and traffic control were also treated for breathing related problems. At the height of the fire over 80 civilians from the surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated from their homes. All were allowed to return the next day.

Investigation into the cause of the fire continues as of this report. For their initial entry into the building, fire investigators had to don protective hazardous materials suits and were limited to only several minutes in the rubble due to the presence of hazardous materials and air temperatures above 100°F. Based on this investigation and analysis of other incidents involving oxidizers, the NFPA has determined that the following significant factors may contribute to large losses in similar facilities:

 - Lack of segregation between incompatible materials

(i.e., oxidizers and hydrocarbon-based materials and other materials)

- Lack of proper storage configuration for oxidizers

- Inadequate sprinkler protection for commodities stored in the warehouse.

To see the full NFPA Fire Investigation report. For information on NFPA's Structure Fires in U.S. Warehouses  Research information on oxidizers can be found on the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation