Fire Guts Warehouse with History of Fire Code Violations

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CALEXICO - Clouds of black smoke surrounded nearby homes, as a warehouse fire challenged firefighters throughout the Imperial County and beyond, Thursday evening.

Responding to the structure at about 4:15 p.m. on the corner of Grant Street and Pierce Avenue, the Calexico Fire Department was the first to enter the facility and later rang out a four-alarm fire call for mutual aid assistance as the blaze rapidly increased.

The structure had between 50 and 60 firefighters combating the flames, from as far as Yuma, Mexicali, Brawley, Westmorland, Calipatria and Niland, as well as fire engines from Naval Air Facility El Centro and the two state prison fire departments, Calexico Fire Chief Peter Mercado said.

With containment being Mercado's biggest strategy, firefighters were able to knock down the fire and obtain control after less than two hours, Mercado said.

"We took an aggressive attack to prevent extension of the fire into the adjacent strip mall," Mercado said.

No injuries were reported from the warehouse fire, however Calexico firefighters did mention that some fire hoses and nasals were destroyed when they attempted to battle the flames from within the structure.

Having worked with the Calexico Fire Department for 10 years, firefighter Cesar Becerra explained how the near 100 degree heat and the room's fuel content made for a large and challenging structure fire.

"The other firefighters helped so much because there was a lot of fire and I'm glad everybody else showed up to help us," Becerra said.

Although the owner of the warehouse is still unclear, Mercado did confirm that the building had a history of fire code violations.

Working in El Centro at the time of the fire, Calexico resident Rudy Huerta recalled being able to see clouds of black smoke as he drove home on Highway 111, Thursday evening.

"The smoke was dark and getting closer," Huerta said. "I just kept thinking, oh no, that's where I live."

Huerta was one of many residents looking from a street away as firefighters continued to fiercely attack the flames.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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