If you were out and about anywhere near Fresno Wednesday, surely you saw this huge column of black smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the sky.
“I walked out my front door and I thought it was a funnel cloud coming,” said Christopher Olivas, a fire spectator.
It was around 11 a.m. that the 3-alarm blaze broke out at the Soex Recycling Plant, near Orange and Church Avenues.
Investigators say workers using a grinder to cut metal are responsible for causing it. Sparks from the grinder hit dry weeds then spread to tons of nearby fabric bales made up of carpet and clothing.
The fire caught the attention of many people with camera phones.
“This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in a while. Not much goes on in Fresno so it’s pretty interesting to see. Yeah, crazy,” said friends Brett & Matt.
A total of 17 trucks and engines, along with 70 firefighters from Fresno County, the city of Fresno and Selma Fire teamed up to tackle 2 acres worth of burning fabric bales piled 15 feet high.
“We just wanted to get a perimeter and soak it with water using the ladder trucks,” said John Dominguez of Cal Fire – Fresno Co.
Factory workers were inside a 7,000 square foot warehouse that was nearby. Luckily, everyone made it out safely.
“Warehouse is not completely destroyed, but it did damage part of the north side of the warehouse,” said Dominguez.
One man, who’s lived in this area his whole life, says this is the third time he’s seen a fire at this plant.
“It happens like every other year, but this seems to be the worst one yet,” said Michael Sifuentes, a neighbor.
Given the magnitude of this blaze, crews are very satisfied with today’s safe outcome.
“On a personal and work level, the operation went well,” said Dominguez.