arrived on Commercial Boulevard near Lemon Creek around
5 a.m. after police noticed smoke coming from the area.
No one was hurt
in the blaze, but firefighters dodged exploding bullets
and shrapnel from 3,000 rounds of ammunition and two propane
cylinders stored in the building.
and much of its contents, including a new Harley-Davidson
motorcycle, were totaled, sending the estimated damage "well
into the millions," fire officials said today. Renters scoured
over and dug through still-smoking remains Sunday and today,
hoping to salvage household goods, photographs and some
hope that anything would be left.
The cause of
the fire is still undetermined, but officials said separate
fires may have started in more than one unit. The fire marshal
Jenson, one of
about 150 storage-unit renters, was on his way to work at
the Alaskan Brewing Co. today when he saw the twisted, sooty
remains of the building and realized his unit was among
"I lost everything
I have except a duffel bag of my clothes," said Jenson.
"I was in the process of moving. I've just been in there
digging, looking for pictures mostly, but pretty much it's
a lost cause.
"I guess it'll
make moving easier. I'll only have a half a car-load of
stuff now. It's one way of keeping it simple. It's just
stuff I guess. ... I don't think this has really hit me
yet since I still have a sense of humor about it."
arrived to smoke billowing from the eaves of the building,
said Volunteer Fire Chief Max Mielke. He sent the first
team of firefighters into the winding corridors of the structure,
but thick smoke and searing fire drove them out.
"They got to
the far end of the building and saw fire along the ceiling
and it was obvious it had been burning for awhile," said
Mielke. "They could hear the fire burning in the attic.
We cut two large holes in the roof to try to vent the building
to force some of the smoke out.
"But even after
we did that, the heat was so intense, we had to pull the
guys out. Some of their face shields were melting."
climbed to the roof to attack the blaze and were pulled
off just in time.
off the roof but one minute when right where they had been
standing, it collapsed, just caved right in," he said.
More than 50
volunteer and paid firefighters were on scene. Some attempted
to salvage belongings from the units while others drenched
nearby buildings to keep the fire from spreading.
"None of the
fire doors had been closed in the storage facility so the
fire had free rein of the place and just went right through
it," Mielke said. "It even ate its way through the Sheetrock
in the attic, which is used as a fire stop."
The heat was
so intense it melted the vinyl siding off Carpet Source,
a neighboring business, he said.
Mielke said the
fire heated 3,000 rounds of ammunition stored in one of
the units and two small propane cylinders stored in another,
sending a barrage of bullets and shrapnel into the crowd
"They were bouncing
off buildings and our trucks," he said. "One of our guys
did get hit in the helmet with a piece of shrapnel, which
put a pretty big dent in his helmet. He wasn't hurt though.
... All we could do was make sure our face masks were on
and stay low while we fought the fire. It kept up for a
good 20 minutes."
After the main
blaze was extinguished, a cleanup crew from the fire department
brought in an excavator to uncover small fires still burning
and clear out some of the rubble. People with belongings
in the units started arriving to see what had happened and
pick through what was left of their things.
"Women were crying
over their lost wedding dresses and people just looked stunned,"
said Eli Hanlon, a security guard hired to protect what
was left. "It made it worse when they brought the excavator
in here and bulldozed over the debris in these units. So
many people lost so much of everything. There are still
bullets imbedded in the roofs of these buildings over here
it was horrendous."
Renter Cal Reichert
said he and his wife lost the contents of a furnished home
in the fire. The two stored all of their belongings, including
furniture and most of their clothing, in the unit while
their new home was being built.
"We lost all
of it, all of our pictures of everything we've done together,
everything," said Reichert. "Since we moved out of our apartment,
we canceled our renters' insurance so none of it is covered.
My wife was able to find her grandma's pearls in a drawer.
At least we have those. At least that's something. ... I
guess we'll have to do some major garage-saling."
Manager Marna McGonegal was not at her downtown office and
did not return a message left on her business cell phone
by the Empire's mid-day deadline.
can be reached at [email protected].