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National City Fire Contained Amid Toxic Fears

Times Staff Writer

A two-alarm fire late Friday hit a National City manufacturing plant, but the blaze was brought under control within an hour by firefighters who feared the blaze might spread a toxic cloud.

Flames broke out about 9:15 p.m. at Western Manufacturing Co., 2200 Haffly Ave., and soon grew into a two-alarm blaze, said Patti Schiff, National City’s fire marshal. The firm builds hydraulic lifts for service stations.

Schiff said the fire apparently started in a manufacturing area of the building and did not spread to any offices. She said she did not know whether the blaze released any toxic clouds, but police warned onlookers that they should leave, telling them that the smoke might be mildly toxic.

John Baker, Western’s operations manager, said he doubted that anything toxic burned because the fire did not reach a part of the building where fiberglass is stored. He said he was shocked by how intense the flames were.

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“There’s only a little bit that would burn in there,” he said. “That’s what blows my mind.”

Baker said that the last employee would have left the building about 4:30 p.m. but that Cousins Warehouse stores, which subleases part of the building for storage, lets employees go about 6 p.m.

The fire was reported by Wes Gentry, 30, a truck driver for the Reynolds Aluminum Supply Co., next door to Western.

Gentry said he was pulling up to the Reynolds driveway when he saw flames shooting out of Western.

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“It started by the paint booth. That’s my guess, anyway,” Gentry said.

Schiff said there was no available estimate of damage, and authorities had yet to determine what started the blaze.

Five engine companies from National City, Chula Vista and San Diego responded to the fire, Schiff said, adding that 25 firefighters were on the scene.


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