A dangerous chemical fire erupted at an Anaheim, California, business at 3:15 p.m. today, sending dangerous plumes of hazardous smoke into the air and threatening to engulf the surrounding businesses. Homes were not at risk in the industrial area, but two firefighters were injured and one employee twisted her ankle as she fled the building.
The fire raged only seven miles northeast of Disneyland. But thanks to first responders, it was contained by 5 p.m. This does not mean that it was extinguished, but rather the firefighters had contained the blaze and believe it will not be able to spread.
The fire broke out at the sprawling complex of American Chemical & Sanitary Supply at 3800 East Miraloma Avenue. It ended up being a five-alarm fire, meaning five fire departments responded to the blaze. Anaheim Fire & Rescue, the Orange County Fire Authority, and the Fullerton, Costa Mesa, and Newport Fire Departments rushed to the scene to try and stop the fire and prevent it from spreading to the rest of Anaheim.
Chemical fires include the added dangers of a possible explosion and spreading chemicals through the air as the fire burns through the hazardous substances.
The janitorial and sanitary supplies company was engulfed in flames. Since even common household cleaning supplies can be combined to create dangerous toxic gasses, the first responders faced that added danger in addition to the heat from the blaze.
Although no one died, the firefighters did not escape unscathed. According to the Anaheim Police Department, two firefighters were injured. One firefighter suffered minor injuries related to heat exhaustion. The other firefighter fared worse.
It is not clear what happened to him, but at 4:30 p.m. an ambulance arrived on the scene. Paramedics treated both firefighters but loaded the one with more serious injuries into the ambulance. The Anaheim Police Department described his injuries as “electrical.”
Electrical injuries can happen to firefighters when energized electrical equipment, such as power tools, appliances, or switches, catches fire. It is difficult to extinguish the inflamed object without using a specialized water mist extinguisher. Using just plain water, the firefighter faces the risk of electrical shock. When trying to use water on an object that is electrically charged, the electricity might pass to the person and shock them. This is why putting out fires that have caught on to electrical equipment is so difficult and dangerous.
Both of the injured firefighters hailed from the Fullerton Police Department.
One employee of the Anaheim business was also injured. When the fire broke out, there were between 10 and 15 people inside the building. According to business owner Luis Salazar, everyone got out unscathed except for one woman.
She luckily escaped with only a twisted ankle. After the building was evacuated, she realized she forgot her purse and ran back inside. On her way out she tripped and fell. It was not reported if she crawled or limped back to safety, or if she had to be rescued before the fire engulfed her.
As a precaution, the surrounding area was evacuated and Miraloma Avenue was closed in both directions. In addition, police urged people to avoid the area. However, they also assuaged the worried public of Anaheim that, although a chemical fire burned through a supply building, they did not believe that the business contained any hazardous material that could be spread from the blaze. They emphasized that smoke is still dangerous, however, and that although there were no signs pointing to hazardous materials, there still could be a hazardous material issue. Authorities are therefore advising the public to stay away.
At this time, the cause of the fire is not known.
[Featured Image by Anaheim Police Department/Anaheim PD]