A massive fire burns down an old manufacturing building in Chickasha.
Chickasha Fire Department Chief Tony Samaniego estimates 1.5 million gallons of hand sanitizer fueled the Chickasha Manufacturing Building fire on Sunday. The intense flames and billowing black smoke drew a crowd.
“They were big, they were big and they were hot,” said Alicia Musshafen, who lives nearby. “I was really in shock that the building was submerged.”
Nearly 100 firefighters from 15 different agencies responded to the blaze, only to find that their tactics had to change.
“Due to the nature of the incident, we immediately adopted a defensive strategy,” Chief Samaniego said.
This means that they could not attack the fire with water due to the highly flammable and dangerous contents inside. About 8,000 pallets of alcohol-based hand sanitizer kept the fire going for hours.
“It was about a 120,000 foot facility and from what we understand it was about half full to the ceiling with these alcohol hand sanitizers “, said Chief Samaniego.
The Oklahoma State Office of the Fire Marshal is helping to investigate not only the cause of the fire, but also the storage of the hazardous liquid.
“We know the building was not cleared for occupancy at this time,” said Judah Sheppard, a supervising officer with the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal’s Office. “We have also received information about other warehouses or other large buildings used for warehouse storage of products shipped from out of state.”
Thomas Butler knows this all too well. He lives next to an apartment building that also houses hundreds of boxes of hand sanitizer.
“I have a propane tank between the building and my house, and I don’t want it to explode and burn my house down,” he said.
He said that over the past few months he had seen trucks delivering produce to the storage building.
“There are a lot of trucks,” he said. “There are about 10 to 20 trucks sometimes.”
Brannan Bordwine, the owner of the company that leases the buildings, Bordwine Development, told News 9 that he uses the buildings to store hand sanitizer and other products for recycling at another location.
“We were just the receiving stage, where we were picking up the product,” he told us over email. “Both warehouses are only dry warehouses.”
Bordwine told us that they unpack all the product and separate the liquid, which goes to a tank truck for disposal. The rest of the materials are recycled.
“I lost all my equipment and my livelihood,” he said. “I thank all the firefighters who came forward to help.
But for now, Thomas is afraid that the second building is just a ticking time bomb.
“I’m sure it worries me,” he said.
Sheppard is aware of the building next to Thomas and will include it in his investigation.
The fire chief says they will be monitoring this fire closely until it is extinguished, which will likely take a few days.