FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A large warehouse fire in Fort Lauderdale erupted Wednesday morning, injuring a firefighter in the process.
Just before 8 a.m., Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue arrived to the Conceal International Inc. warehouse, near 6600 N.W. 17th Ave. According to Fire Rescue Chief Timothy Heiser, the fire was not a result of a plane crash, contrary to earlier reports.
After investigating the charred wreckage of the warehouse and conducting interviews, fire officials revealed a forklift operator had struck containers of hazardous materials, which set off a chain reaction.
“We immediately recognized this building had hazardous material,” said Heiser.
Several units were on the scene, along with a hazmat team. Officials said the roof collapsed as a result of the fire, and once the roof collapsed, firefighters switched their focus from saving the building to putting out the flames.
“As the fire progressed, there were several more explosions, and the fire vented itself through the roof,” Heiser said.
A nearby witness described the early stages of the fire. “It was the explosion,” the unnamed witness said. “What could have exploded like that?”
“The building exploded right in front of me,” said another unnamed witness. “Unbelievable.”
A witness, Laurie Jones, heard an explosion when the fire began. “I just dropped my kids off at school, and you could hear a big explosion,” she said. “It sounded like thunder, and as soon as that happened, there still only smoke in the air.”
Jones was able to record the beginning of the fire on her cellphone.
Gabriel Renteria, another witness, said the smoke could be seen for miles. “First thing you notice is a huge, white mushroom cloud,” said Renteria, “so it must have been a chemical reaction, I was thinking to myself, because it was pure, white – no signs of black or anything.”
The massive fire scared the employees of nearby businesses. “I’m working on the building right next door,” said witness Rick Figueroa. “I can be working and then stuff explodes.”
Fire rescue officials said nobody inside was hurt, but a firefighter did suffer a leg injury during the response. The firefighter was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Traffic north of the area was affected during the fire. Fire officials issued a three-mile voluntary evacuation during the fire, as well.
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