|Desert Depot Fire||30th Street and S Avenue 7E, Yuma, AZ 85365-6633|
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Desert Depot fire out
As a precaution, Yuma firefighters evacuated several Foothills neighborhoods and businesses on Tuesday afternoon as they battled a chemical fire at the Desert Depot.
The fire, which began on a loading dock outside a warehouse at 3050 S. Avenue 7E, sent flames and a large plume of black smoke billowing high into the air shortly after 3 p.m.
"As engines were arriving on scene they reported smoke showing," said Fire Marshal Art Castricone of the Yuma Fire Department. "The fire never extended into the building. Since we couldn't immediately identify the chemicals involved we asked for the evacuation as a precaution."
A division of the Gowan Company, Desert Depot provides warehousing and distribution of agriculture supplies for Gowan Company and Gowan Milling.
Gowan, which was not able to provide any additional information about the fire when contacted, has plants all over the world to make various chemical products.
The fire was pronounced out at about 5:40 p.m., but fire officials were still asking those who had evacuated their homes not return to the area until after 6:30 p.m.
"I don't see any flames or any smoke. All I see is about 3,500 gallons of water a minute being poured onto it," Castricone said shortly before the blaze was pronounced extinguished.
Kayla Holiman, fire inspector for the Yuma Fire Department, said four sprinkler heads were found to have been activated on the inside of the building at the bay doors that faced the loading dock.
These sprinkler heads, she said, kept the fire from spreading into the building. The materials on the loading dock fueled the fire.
The area between Avenues 6-1/2E and 8E, north of 30th Street were evacuated during the fire as a precautionary measure, which included the subdivisions of Tamarack, Desert Ridge, College Park, Cresta Gila, The Bluffs and Castle View.
A temporary shelter, staffed by the Red Cross and the City of Yuma Parks and Recreation Department, was set up at the Yuma Civic Center, 1440 W. Desert Hills Drive, to give residents evacuating their homes a place to stay until they could return to their residences.
Holiman said about 60 people had checked into the shelter.
Classes at nearby Arizona Western College were canceled, and the campus was evacuated.
"The announcement came over and we did exactly what we were told," said Kate Turpin, AWC coordinator of the massage program. "We dropped everything and left."
Turpin said no one panicked as a result of the announcement and left in an orderly fashion.
"I think that people took it seriously and were very orderly about evacuating campus," Turpin said.
Despite the road closures and evacuations in the area, Turpin said she did not have a difficult time getting home.
"Traffic was a bit heavier than usual, but not bad," she said.
AWC spokeswoman Lori Stofft said the main campus was closed at about 4:15 p.m. and all students and faculty were directed to leave via the Highway 95 exit.
Stofft said the college canceled all of its Tuesday evening classes and has put up barricades and signs. It has also locked the doors to all its buildings.
"We have gone building to building to make sure everyone has left," Stofft said.
She added that a small number of resident hall students were also evacuated and taken to a nearby hotel.
Adrianna Rosas, of the Bright Beginnings Learning Center, 7985 E. 24th St., said children who were still at the day care when the fire broke out were taken to the civic center, where their parents were able to pick them up.
Holiman said mutual aid for the fire was provided by the Marine Corps Air Station Fire Department, and Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department.
Yuma police, the Yuma County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were restricting access into the area and coordinating with road closures.
According to Officer Clint Norred, spokesman for the Yuma Police Department, 32nd Street between Avenue 8E and Araby Road was also closed.
Harold Sanders, spokesman for DPS, said Interstate 8 was closed for about two hours but later reopened.
Desert Depot currently has two warehouses at 30th Street and Avenue 7E next to Yuma Commerce Center.
The original 100,000-square-foot warehouse was built in 1996 and a 112,000-square-foot warehouse was added in 1999.
Holiman also said the YFD is in the process of identifying the chemicals that were involved in Tuesday’s incident, and that fire investigators were on the scene to determine the cause of the fire.
She added the City Emergency Operations Center was activated for this event due to the coordination of evacuation efforts.
Sun Staff Writer James Gilbert can be reached at 539-6854 or email@example.com
This article was updated at 8:42 p.m.