Puyallup cold storage fire is ‘very dynamic’; shelter-in-place advisory lifted

PUYALLUP, Wash. — A shelter-in-place advisory was lifted at around 7:05 p.m. Sunday for Puyallup residents as a fire at a cold storage facility continued to smolder.

Central Pierce Fire and Rescue called the fire a “very dynamic” situation and had issued a shelter-in-place advisory in a 1-mile radius of the fire in downtown Puyallup earlier in the day.

The three-alarm fire at Washington Cold Storage was discovered at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

No one was hurt, but an area of slightly more than a mile encircling the fire was evacuated.

Thick, black smoke from a fire inside the Washington Cold Storage spewed into the skies in Puyallup all day Saturday and continued into Sunday morning. At about 5 a.m. Saturday, the fire was called in by a passerby “who saw smoke and flames from the roof of the cold storage building,” said Capt. Darrin Shaw of Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.

This is what Central Pierce Fire faced — flames tearing through the building. So they immediately pulled a second alarm.

“Crews immediately started a defensive attack using thousands of gallons of water,” said Shaw.

Then they pulled the third alarm. They learned early on that anhydrous ammonia was stored inside the building.

“Anhydrous ammonia is used as a refrigerant,” said Shaw. “And it’s dangerous when it catches fire. So, per our guidelines, we evacuated 1.1 mile.”

The nearby Nazarene Church opened its doors to accept the evacuees. Alerts were sent to Reverse 911. Some Puyallup police officers even went door to door.

But resident Gail Langer said she never got an alert, a concern in an area used to regular test alerts in the event Mount Rainier erupts.

“I was hoping that if there was something like this, we would hear the public address system,” she said.

Instead, a friend called her. So she gathered up her dogs and left.

“I’m a little concerned that they had 1,000 pounds of ammonia stored a mile away from where I live,” Langer said. “I’m curious to find out what ignited or whether it is something that is naturally combustible.”

“I know it’s a smokehouse and also a cold storage building,” said Charles Bailey, an evacuee. “It’s an old building. So there is concerns that there might be explosions.”

Firefighters said because of the danger anhydrous ammonia poses, they are allowing the fire to burn itself out, putting water on the periphery to prevent the flames from spreading beyond the immediate area.

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