YUMA – Three buildings at a produce plant have completely collapsed and are still burning tonight, according to Rural Metro Fire Department.
On Wednesday, a thick column of tan and black smoke rose from the Fresh Express produce packing plant just west of the Foothills.
The fire broke out suddenly on Wednesday before two o'clock in the afternoon.
It spread very quickly. The massive fire east of Yuma brought multiple agencies to battle the blaze, including Rural Metro Fire, YPG Fire and MCAS Fire.
The Yuma County Sheriff's Office blocked off all streets within a one-mile radius of the plant, and everyone within the zone was forced to leave. The reason? Drums of toxic chemicals stored inside the burning building.
Ernesto Moreno is a cardboard sorter. He was working inside the plant when the fire broke out. He says a coworker told him the plant was on fire and to get out. Moreno says he saw the fire and did just that. Moreno says everyone got out.
Without knowing if the two-toned plume was toxic, the president of Arizona Western College evacuated the entire campus and the surrounding area, as the smoke drifted towards the school. As it turns out, the tan smoke was from the Freon foam insulation in the plant, not toxic chemicals.
Firefighters were able to effectively protect the southwest portion of the building where the potentially dangerous drums were stored.
By five-thirty in the afternoon, Charly McMurdie of Rural Metro Fire Department said the fire was 90 percent contained.
"We just about have it contained at this point you're seeing a lot of black smoke because there are some products inside that building that are just going to burn for awhile. The fire will not spread any further at this point though," explained McMurdie.
As a precaution, people were kept out of the area for another hour.
The evacuation order was lifted around six-thirty.
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