PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) -
Dozens of drums of used motor oil exploded in a large fire Wednesday at a solvent recycling company, spewing fireballs and blackening the sky south of downtown Phoenix for more than an hour.
It happened in a storage area of SRC Oil & Fuel, which is located in the neighborhood of 19th Avenue and Broadway Road. Firefighters said the area was lined with 55-gallon drums filled with motor oil and solvents used to clean auto parts. The area also contained a 4,000-gallon tank of motor oil.
The 55-gallon drums heated up and exploded, with several flying into the air as projectiles, fire officials said. Officials didn't know if the 4,000-gallon drum exploded, Subervi said.
When one of the tanks exploded, the blast damaged some power lines in the area. It also forced firefighters to back up their ladder trucks to a safer area. It was not the only explosion.
The huge fire produced an estimated 30 blasts, said Capt. Larry Subervi, a spokesman for the Phoenix Fire Department.
The burning oil generated a tremendous amount of smoke. A large, dense plume of thick black smoke could be seen for miles.
Although it did not cause any flight delays, some planes taking off from Sky Harbor International Airport were instructed to fly farther to the west before making their turns to avoid mushrooming black plume.
While investigators have not drawn any conclusions about what sparked the fire, one of the owners of SRC Oil & Fuel said it might have started in a diesel-powered boiler.
A convenience store and other businesses near the fire were evacuated as a precaution, affecting about 100 people, Subervi said.
There was no immediate word of any injuries, according to Subervi.
Some 50 firefighters were on scene to battle the three-alarm fire. Twenty hazardous-materials specialists were called out, as well.
Subervi said he wasn't aware of any past fires at the Solvent Recy-Clean company.
According to the SRC Oil & Fuel website, the company "specializes in collecting and recycling used oil, used diesel fuels, used jet fuels, used gasoline, used oil filters, used antifreeze, oily water, used oil grease, used oil absorbents, used oily rags and other used oil products."
It also has a wastewater division.
The company is "owned and operated by Arizona natives," and has been in business for more than 25 years. In addition to the Phoenix plant, SRC Oil & Fuel also has facilities in Quartzsite, AZ, as well as in California and Louisiana. It provides services in all three states plus Nevada, Texas and Utah.