Santa Maria - North County

Santa Maria Warehouse Fire: Accidental Causes Ruled Out

Info sought on man seen on surveillance video

Massive fire destroys Santa Maria warehouse

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - (UPDATE Wednesday 1:15 p.m.)

Santa Maria Fire investigators have ruled out accidental causes for Monday's large warehouse fire on West Stowell Road.

Possible reasons for the fire such as an electrical short have been ruled out, said chief fire investigator Larry Comerford.

But investigators have located surveillance video showing one person nearby the warehouse between 3:00 and 3:30 Monday afternoon, right before the fire started.  That footage has not been released because the video quality is poor and doesn't show the person clearly.

 

(UPDATE 12:30 p.m. Tuesday)

On Tuesday Santa Maria fire investigators were at the scene of Monday's huge warehouse fire, searching for the cause of the blaze that sent smoke billowing across the Santa Maria valley.

"It's like sifting through for a needle in a haystack," said chief fire prevention offer Larry Comerford.

Investigators and the Fire Marshall believe it will take days before they are able to narrow down the cause of the blaze, and if they are able to rule out arson as one of the possible causes.

Among the items investigators will review is any surveillance video that might have been taken by any of the other businesses nearby. 

On Tuesday morning, the fire department put out a call to the public, asking for assistance in identifying anyone who may have been near or at the scene of the fire at 1298 West Stowell Road between 3:00 and 3:45 Monday afternoon.

(UPDATE 11:15 a.m.)

Santa Maria Fire investigators are seeking someone who was spotted at the scene of Monday's large warehouse fire at 1298 W. Stowell Road.  

Specifically, Fire Marshall Darrel Delgado is looking for information on anyone seen between 3:00 and 3:45 on Monday afternoon.

The department is not making any statements indicating the cause of the fire, but want anyone with information to call 925-0951 extension 1578.

(UPDATE 10:30 p.m.)

It’s still unclear what sparked a massive warehouse fire on West Stowell Road in Santa Maria around 3:30 p.m.

Almost seven hours after the Santa Maria Fire Department got the call, they remained on scene Monday night, mopping up hot spots. 

As of 10:30 p.m. smoke was still billowing into the air and heavy machinery could still be seen on site, scooping scorched piles of cardboard up and sorting the debris into piles after soaking them with water. 

It was almost a case of déjà vu for Santa Maria Firefighters, responding to a warehouse blaze Monday afternoon just West of Blosser Road. 

“The fire is in a similar location of a fire we had about 15 years ago. I believe it was June 8, 2001, the Casiano  Fire was directly behind this structure but a very similar type of fire and it take a lot of water and people to put that fire out,” said Mike Farmer, Santa Maria Fire Department Battalion Chief. 

With four engines, a truck and an air and light unit, the flames at 1298 West Stowell Road required hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from every vantage point possible. 

“From a risk standpoint we do fight these fires in a defensive fashion, meaning we surround them,” said Farmer. 

Battling massive flames and challenging winds, when the 6,000 square foot structure collapsed it insulated the inferno. 

“The complexity of putting this out when we arrived on scene it was already very well involved, our main priority was to stop it from its forward progression into the exposure,” said Farmer, motioning behind him. 

An excavator and backcomb were even brought in to tear apart the warped, melted metal so firefighters could get water on the flames, still smoldering hours later. 

A battalion chief on scene says the blaze originated in the front portion of the warehouse and 50,000 five-gallon plastic buckets were inside the building, along with cardboard and pallets. 

“It was a metal building full of cardboard boxes, the boxes were packed very tightly so that fire get embedded in there and it’s hard for us to put that fire out without getting in and separating those boxes,” said Farmer. 

Contrary to previous reports, officials do no suspect that there were any boxes with wax coating inside the now demolished building. 

An internet search indicates that the location belongs to GPC Pallets but that has yet to be confirmed. 

Thankfully no injuries have been reported. 

The cause and origin of the fire remains under investigation. 

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Santa Maria firefighters responded to a warehouse fire at 1298 W. Stowell Road.  Black smoke from the fire could be seen across the city.  The first call on the fire came in at 3:31 p.m. Monday afternoon.

A news release from the city of Santa Maria described the building as a metal warehouse with cardboard and wooden pallets inside.  Crews are working to contain the fire and to protect other nearby structures.

The warehouse is used for packing products, which in this case, according to onlookers, is strawberries.  A Santa Maria Fire Battalion Chief tells our reporter on scene that wax is used in the packing process, which is making the firefight more difficult.

Santa Maria's fire department has one truck one air/light unit, two battalion chiefs, and an ambulance on scene.  So far there are no reports of injuries.

A Fire Marshall will be investigating the blaze once it is under control, which is estimated to happen before 6:00 p.m.

Police assisted firefighters by evacuating people from the building and those nearby.  Traffic control is also underway at Stowell and Kameo.

A KCOY 12 photojournalist on the scene says the fire is in the same general area of another larger warehouse fire more than 12 years ago.

This is a developing story.  More information will be added as it becomes available.
 


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