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Crews wrap up hours-long firefight at Santa Maria warehouse

Posted at 12:06 AM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-17 03:06:04-04

Thick black smoke could be seen around Santa Maria late Monday afternoon, the result of a large fire that engulfed a warehouse about two blocks down from the county fairgrounds.

The fire at 1298 W. Stowell Rd. started at 3:30 p.m. The 6,000 square foot building burned for more than four hours. No one was hurt and all city fire crews were battling the flames.

No word yet on how it started but the warehouse was packed full of material, specifically produce boxes and pallets. The City of Santa Maria says the business affected may be GPC Pallets.

"The difficulties were because of the fire load inside, meaning the cardboard boxes. It was fully packed with cardboard boxes. It had been burning for a while," said Battalion Chief Mike Farmer.

A retired fire captain deployed a drone for an aerial view of the firefight showing Santa Maria firefighters surrounding the building and dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on the flames.

"That machine right there puts 800-1,000 gallons of water per minute," Farmer said.

Windy conditions did pose challenges for firefighters on scene trying to control where the water went.

Fire officials say this same property also burned in 2001. The plastic used on the produce boxes back then made it burn a lot hotter but fire officials say the boxes no longer have the plastic coating this time around.

"The metal structure has collapsed on top of the cardboard boxes that we are trying to extinguish and it’s almost insulated it, so it’s hard for us to get water in it and penetrate it," Farmer said.

Chainsaws and excavators were brought in to gain access to the burning boxes. Excavators were working well into the evening to help put out all of the hot spots.

Surrounding buildings were kept safe from flames. Fire investigators were on scene working to determine a cause.

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