MAYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — More than half of the 300 people evacuated as a result of a three-alarm toxic fire that tore through two Maywood commercial buildings and sparked a series of explosions were back home Tuesday night.
But 140 of the evacuees remained displaced. Some of them spent the night at the Maywood YMCA as fire crews continued to fight the flames.
Some of the evacuees complained of sore throat, headaches and other symptoms.
Firefighter were called to the 3700 block of Fruitland Avenue around 2:30 a.m. after someone reported flames ripping through a warehouse that served Gemini Plastic Enterprises, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said flames shot through the roofs of two structures, one of which was a metal-recycling plant.
Crews began pouring water on the flames. But the oxygen from the water created a chemical reaction with the burning magnesium, one of the metals being stored at the facility and awaiting recycling, producing what one fire official described as “fireballs” and setting off strong explosions.
“We had some very violent, ferocious explosions in the facility,” Osby said, adding that besides magnesium, other metals such as coppers, zinc and lead were present, along with chemicals and propane.
Alejandra Zelaya captured an explosion on her phone as ashes fell from the sky.
The Zelaya family was evacuated, still wearing their pajamas.
“I heard explosions. So we were supposed to get out of the house,” said 7-year-old Emily Zelaya.
“It was just a bunch of windows shaking,” said 15-year-old Lorena Gomez. “So, it kind of got a little scary because I thought it was an earthquake, too.”
“It smelled like pure rubber, like burned rubber. It smelled a lot like chemicals,” 10-year-old Herbert Zelaya said.
The blaze prompted the Air Quality Management District to issue a smoke advisory for the entire county.
Health officials advised people in areas affected by odors to remain indoors and avoid exercise for the time being.
More than 3,100 Southern California Edison customers were without power, according to the utility company.
Fire officials said everyone should be back in their homes by Wednesday night.
It is not known what sparked the fire.