Dade City, Florida -- An overnight inferno at a Dade City industrial park has destroyed a huge warehouse, and the fire was still going as the sun came up on Thanksgiving morning.
The four alarm blaze lit up the skies over Pasco County at about 10:30 Wednesday night. Smoke was billowing from the Dade City Business Center, a large industrial park just off U.S. 301.
Firefighters say between 50 and 100 businesses are located inside the complex. The burning building -- a three-story, 40,000 square foot warehouse -- contained several 55-gallon drums that exploded through the night.
A piece of one exploding barrel missed a fire captain's head by just inches, a spokesman said.
The warehouse is home to All Natural Botanicals. The company sells fragrances and oils in bulk.
Firefighters say their goal has been to keep the fire from spreading beyond that one building. So far, they have been successful, despite dangerous conditions inside.
"The third floor has collapsed into the center of the building, which is impeding us getting in there to the scene of the fire," said Duncan Hitchcock with Pasco County Fire Rescue.
Much of the burned building's roof has also collapsed, and believe it or not, that has helped firefighters. They were then able to use ladder trucks to dump water straight down into the building.
The biggest challenges for firefighters have been the building's unusually thick walls and those 55-gallon drums that have been exploding inside the warehouse.
"When the first crews arrived, they tried to attack the fire," Hitchcock said. "Shortly after they went inside, two of the barrels blew up -- one of the barrels with such a force it took out a section of a four-inch concrete wall."
One firefighter was hurt, but he's been released and he'll be ok.
Firefighters were finally able to make their way into the building at around 6 a.m. Thursday.
They say they separated the fire from those explosive 55-gallon drums and learned the drums hold some kind of alcohol-based substance. That's good news, because it means the cloud of smoke created by the burning chemicals should not pose a health risk to neighbors, Hitchcock said.
The smoke is unusual in another way. Instead of the typical charred smell that comes from most fires, this smoke carries an almost pleasant, fragrant scent from the burning perfume oils in the warehouse.
The complex was a Lykes Company citrus plant and became a business park several years ago.
Hitchcock says firefighters expect to stay on the scene, drowning the fire, well into the day on Thursday.
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