Warnings issued prior to warehouse fire

Honolulu firefighters put out a warehouse blaze in the Campbell Industrial Park area.
Honolulu firefighters put out a warehouse blaze in the Campbell Industrial Park area.
HFD Capt. Terry Seelig
HFD Capt. Terry Seelig

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

CAMPBELL INDUSTRIAL PARK (HawaiiNewsNow) – Fire roared through a warehouse at 91-080 Hanua Street Tuesday damaging several businesses and doing an estimated $800,000 damage to the building and its contents.

Two companies doing business in the warehouse had recently received letters from the state Department of Health critical of the way they stored, labeled, and disposed of flammable liquids. An investigator is still working to determine how the fire started.

The fire began about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.

"The flames shot at least 40 feet above the height of the building. It was pretty devastating. The smoke was thick. You couldn't even see in the building at all. I mean I thought the whole building was going to be destroyed," said John Meyers who operates Innovative Housing Solutions, a steel home framing company, in the warehouse and leases warehouse space to six other companies.

Meyers was approaching the property in his vehicle when he saw the fire. "Wow. It was cracking, popping, little explosions, people were scattering," he said.

Meyers' immediate concern was for his wife Syonna and their seven-month old daughter Caylee. The mother and daughter were in an air conditioned, insulated home on the property unaware of the danger.

"It was pretty scary. We were sitting on the floor playing and all of a sudden John walks in and says, 'Get in the car. Get in the car. Let's go, let's go.' And I looked at him and I'm like, 'What's the rush? I'm still in my pajamas.' And he's like, 'Just go, just go, just go.' So I get her. I get the dogs and a bottle and walk out and the whole plant is on fire," Syonna Meyers told Hawaii News Now.

No one was hurt. Firefighters had the blaze under control 21 minutes after arriving on scene.

"It's just speculation right now as to what happened, what caused it. A spark? Fuel on the floor? Nobody knows yet," John Meyers said.

Green Recycling, LLC, a tenant at the warehouse, was recently issued a warning letter from the Health Department's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch. The letter, dated October 11, 2011, was a Notification of Intent to File Notice of Violation and Order.

Green Recycling is a vehicle towing and salvage/recycling operation. It routinely drains and stores oil and gasoline from vehicles.

In its letter the Department of Health notes "The area in and around the storage area was covered with used oil and gasoline spills." It notes that under Hawaii law, "Facilities must be maintained and operated to minimize the possibility of a fire explosion or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste … which could threaten human health or the environment."

The letter instructs owner Walter Chung to clean oil and gasoline spills and properly manage salvage and storage areas.

Tows-R-Us, Inc. also operates a vehicle towing and salvage/recycling operation at the warehouse. The Health Department issued a notice of potential violations to Tows-R-Us. That notice reminds the company it must, by law, clearly label containers holding hazardous waste including gasoline, used oil, and used batteries.

Environmental watchdog Carrol Cox forwarded the Department of Health letters to Hawaii News Now.

The warehouse areas occupied by both Green Recycling and Tows-R-Us were burned by Tuesday's fire. Universal Fence and Innovative Housing Solutions suffered limited damage.

The fire would have done much more damage if nearby fuel tankers had ignited. Liquid fuel from the tankers had been drained, but the tankers contained flammable vapors.

Firefighters protected the tankers, one of which was just 20 feet from the raging fire, by spraying them with fire retardant foam.

"The compressed air foam is a fantastic product that helps to absorb heat and knock down a fire much more efficiently than water does," Honolulu fire Captain Terry Seelig said.

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