Questions Loom in Wake of Yuma Plant Fire

Questions Loom in Wake of Yuma Plant Fire

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YUMA - Five days later, the debris from a produce plant fire is still smoldering in Gila Valley. Just as the smoke lingers in the area, so do the questions. What started this fire? Were the buildings up to code? Were company employees told what to do in an emergency?

We don't have all of the answers this evening, but we do have a few more pieces of the puzzle.

Today, light smoke continued rising from the collapsed building where a large number of wooden palettes, cardboard pieces and cartons were stored.

Tim Drexler is BCI's Director of Harvesting and Cooling at the plant. He says the plant was up to fire codes and passed regular fire inspections. Mr. Drexler says on the day of the fire (pictured), two employees grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put the blaze out, but it was already out of control.

When firefighters arrived, Drexler says he immediately informed them of the ammonia containers and their location. That's when evacuation orders went out for a one-mile radius. They were lifted about five hours later, when firefighters were confident the ammonia tanks no longer posed a threat.

The tanks resemble natural gas tanks people use to heat their homes in rural areas. They are long and cylindrical.

Ernesto Moreno is a cardboard sorter who was working at the plant on the day of the fire.

"They told us that if something like this were to happen, to get out and go the opposite way the wind is blowing," said Moreno.

Clearly, plant workers had been given clear instructions on what to do in case of fire.

Mr. Drexler says Rural Metro Fire Marshal Curt Foster is coming to the plant tomorrow to continue his investigation into what started the blaze. Fire Marshal Foster was unavailable for comment today.

Other questions for Foster, what did Rural Metro and other fire agencies in Yuma County learn from this fire? What changes, if any, will it prompt in the future?

So many questions, still waiting to be answered.

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