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Fire Fed by Toxic Destroys Building in Fountain Valley

Times Staff Writer

A raging five-alarm fire involving a hazardous chemical devastated a large commercial structure in Fountain Valley Friday night near Ellis Avenue and the San Diego Freeway.

The hazardous chemical was not immediately identified, but a Fountain Valley police officer said it was a “carcinogenic material” used in lining for underground pipes.

Minutes after the blaze broke out, firefighters warned hordes of spectators to avoid fumes and possibly contaminated water that streamed from the building as Fire Department hoses played on the structure and clouds of whitish smoke spread over the scene.

No injuries were reported in the fire, which broke out at 8:25 p.m. in a large building on Bandilier Circle, a cul de sac of commercial buildings off Ellis Avenue, next to a southbound on-ramp of the San Diego Freeway.

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“This is a bad situation for the firefighters, having this hazardous material possibly in fumes,” said Lt. Rod Gillman, watch commander for the Fountain Valley Police Department.

He noted that dense, acrid smoke roiled out of the large building for almost two hours after the fire broke out and said firefighters were caught in the midst of the possibly hazardous smoke.

Gillman said the fire had burned the offices of Sancon Engineering Inc., 18410 Bandilier Circle. Firefighters reported that at least two other commercial outlets shared the same warehouse-like structure, but the identities of the other commercial occupants were not immediately known.

The only evacuations required were “those of businesses still open in the immediate area, and there weren’t many because most of the places are 9 to 5 types,” Gilman said, noting that the nearest residential areas are about half a mile from the fire scene.

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“We’re lucky in that the wind tonight is blowing in a northeasterly direction, over towards the Santa Ana River and an unpopulated area,” Gillman said. The wind greatly lessened the danger from the possibly contaminated smoke, he added.

Units from Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Anaheim and the Orange County fire departments responded to the scene. Meanwhile, the Orange County Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team was trying to locate the dangerous material believed to be in the structure.

Cause of the fire and damage figures were not determined by late Friday night.


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