Two people suffered injuries as a three-alarm fire ripped through a pair of commercial buildings in Maywood, CA, Tuesday, sparking a series of explosions, knocking out power and forcing the evacuation of about 300 residents and nearby workers.
A Maywood city employee and a sheriff’s deputy suffered smoke inhalation as a result of the blaze in the 3700 block of Fruitland Avenue.
The fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. in a warehouse that serves Gemini Plastic Enterprises, said officials at the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
With the fire still smoldering throughout the day, officials said residents were not end up allowed back into their homes before Wednesday morning.
County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said arriving crews found flames shooting through the roofs of two structures, one of which was a metal-recycling plant. Crews began pouring water on the flames, but the oxygen from the water created a chemical reaction with the burning magnesium, one of the metals being stored at the facility and awaiting recycling, producing what one fire official described as “fireballs” and setting off strong explosions.
“We had some very violent, ferocious explosions in the facility,” Osby said, adding that in addition to magnesium, other metals such as coppers, zinc and lead were present, along with chemicals and propane.
Firefighters immediately stopped pouring water on the burning metal, said Deputy County Fire Chief John Tripp.
Osby said fire crews quickly went into a defense mode and were able to prevent the blaze from spreading from the two commercial structures destroyed to other businesses and nearby homes.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deployed deputies from several sheriff’s stations to the area, and they evacuated about 300 residents from homes and businesses as a precaution while authorities assessed air quality. They also routed traffic away from the area.
“The majority of the evacuations were mandatory (and) other residents voluntarily evacuated to safety,” sheriff’s department officials said.
The blaze led more than 3,100 customers in the area to lose power at 2:45 a.m., and crews went in to handle the problem, a Southern California Edison representative said.
A hazardous-materials team was sent to the scene, and officials from the South Coast Air Quality Management District received notice. The AQMD later issued a smoke advisory, saying odor from the plume of smoke was prompting complaints across the region.
Fire officials are investigating the cause of the blaze.