Employee in serious condition after fire at Oahu salvage company - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Employee in serious condition after fire at Oahu salvage company

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

CAMPBELL INDUSTRIAL PARK (HawaiiNewsNow) - A worker was seriously burned after an explosion and fire Tuesday in an auto wrecking yard at Campbell Industrial Park.

The fire was reported shortly after 3 p.m. at Leeward Auto Wreckers at 91-139 Hanua Street. According to the owner, the worker was moving cars and separating scrap metal when the fire began.

"They flipped the car over, and had like a tank in one of the cars and it fell out," said scrap yard owner Albert Ternora. "So my operator picked up the tank. As he picked up the tank, I guess he busted a valve off, and it caused an explosion."

"It was a deep boom, and you could actually feel it in your chair," said John Meyers of Innovative Housing Solutions, a business just down the street from Leeward Auto Wreckers.

Ternora said the fire from the explosion would have been contained right away, but it ignited nearby tires. The burning tires filled the air with thick black smoke that could be seen for miles.

"First companies that arrived saw heavy smoke and significant flame involvement in a small portion of the yard," said Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Department. "We were able to control it in about 45 minutes."

According to fire investigators, the tank contained acetylene, a flammable and explosive gas. "We handle a lot of tanks like that, but unfortunately this one was full," Ternora said.

The excavator operator was seriously burned in the explosion. A second worker was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

The blaze is similar to one last November that damaged a nearby warehouse, which housed auto towing and recycling businesses.

"I know the business owner down there, Albert, and he was out here six weeks ago standing across the street with me when our warehouse was on fire, so I just had the same sick feeling in my stomach for him that we had earlier in the month," Meyers said. Meyers leased the warehouse space to the auto towing businesses.

According to the State Health Department, Leeward Auto Wreckers has been warned in the past for improperly storing and storing too many scrap tires.

Damage was estimated at $300,000, mostly to one of the scrap yard's excavators, which was destroyed in the fire.

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