Fire at cold storage facility in Puyallup continues to smolder

PUYALLUP, Wash. — For the second straight night, firefighters remained at the scene of a cold storage facility fire which caused multiple advisories and forced evacuations for nearby homes in downtown Puyallup. The three-alarm fire at Washington Cold Storage was discovered at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

Central Pierce Fire and Rescue called the fire a “very dynamic” situation.

Late Saturday, fire crews thought they had the fire out but it flared up again as there were some hot spots in the attic of some of the buildings, and crews were worried those hot spots could erupt into flames, which was what happened Sunday morning.

The eruption of flames again caused a shelter-in-place order to be reactivated and it was later downgraded to a shelter-in-place advisory, which was lifted after excavators tore down the walls of the facility.

That allowed firefighters to get the fire and smoke under control.

KIRO 7 talked to Shayne Jackson who lives near the facility. On Saturday, he woke up and saw flames shooting in the air.

“My wall was just the most vibrant orange I’ve ever seen,” said Jackon. “Looked out the window and just saw a mountain of fire. It looked like it was 100 feet high.”

Jackson and his wife, Bailey, took photos of the fire across the street from their home.

An evacuation order was issued after firefighters discovered there was anhydrous ammonia burning.

“By about 7ish when we started to get evacuated, you can smell the ammonia and the chemicals starting to burn,” said Kricket Smiley.

Firefighters had determined the best way to prevent the toxic chemical from spreading to nearby homes was to allow the fire to burn, taking the toxic fumes up into the atmosphere.

“After I heard that they were going to let it keep burning to get all the chemicals out of the air and have it burn up higher, I figured that makes quite a bit of sense. There’s a lot of fires that get controlled like that because it’s safer that way. So, not surprised but it’s still weird to see it the next day, smoldering, 100 feet from my house,” said Sebastian Lawrenz who lives in the evacuated area.

Firefighters said a Washington State Department of Ecology worker stopped by the scene and determined that the ammonia was no longer a threat.

“It is totally different because we had hazardous chemicals in the beginning. But as those were mitigated, now it’s just like a giant bonfire. We have wood burning. We have other materials that are toxic, but they’re not going to kill somebody,” Capt. Darrin Shaw with Central Pierce Fire and Rescue said.

That was a large reason why evacuation orders and advisories were lifted on Sunday night, which was welcoming news to firefighters who had been at the scene since early Saturday morning.

“Some of them have been working up to 48, 72, approaching 90-some hours,” Shaw said.

Even the fire engines at the scene had remained in the same spot for hours, causing them to be refueled in place.

KIRO 7 was told that an investigation into the fire’s cause will not begin until the scene has been fully cleared.