$2 Million Chemical Plant Fire

8
Wirral Explosion

REEDLEY, Calif. – Around 100 fire personnel battled the fire at the Gar Tootelian agricultural plant in Reedley late Sunday morning. The fire ravaged one building on the property, causing at least $2 million in damage costs.

The plant is on Crawford Avenue between South and Parlier Avenues. It started around 11:30 a.m. in a warehouse housing the plant’s maintenance shop, according to Cal Fire.

Workers alerted emergency responders after a fire alarm brought them to the plant. By the time any fire crew arrived, the fire already consumed at least a quarter of the 20,000 square foot building.

While only things like tires and other maintenance equipment burned, Cal fire public information officer Capt. Jeremiah Wittwer said crews took a certain approach while fighting the fire given agriculatural chemicals and possibly hazardous materials are on the property.

“We try to stay upwind, out of the smoke and in the safest areas,” said Wittwer. “Figure out what we’re dealing with before we engage in any firefighting efforts.”

The plant has an on-site water tanker and several fire hydrants. Wittwer said they helped with firefighting efforts, but the resources depleted fast. He said thankfully canals were nearby to provide a quick refill for tankers.

“Being able to grab the water out of the canal and give us that additional 1,000 gallon per minute (GPM). Definitely helped contain this fire,” Wittwer said.

Crews had the fire out in a matter of hours. Cesar Cardenas has lived by the plant for the past couple of years. He said he knows things at the plant overall are safe.

However, things like this can be a worry, especially since chemicals were threatened.

“(A chemical fire) is probably everybody’s worst nightmare,” said Cardenas. “It does weigh on your mind, it’s always a concern.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A Gar Tootelian spokesperson said the on-site tanker and fire hydrants have only been a recent addition to the property, as part of an expansion effort that started five years ago.