Fire sends tall plume of black smoke over Phoenix

A tall plume of smoke rises above a large structure fire in west-central Phoenix, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. The fire slowed traffic on nearby interstate highways in the area. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)

PHOENIX (AP) — A two-alarm fire tore through a site where metals and compressed gases are stored, sending up thick, black plumes of smoke and forcing the precautionary evacuation of workers in businesses near the industrial area in Phoenix Thursday.

Phoenix Fire Department officials said the fire was considered a hazardous materials incident, but there were no immediate reports of any injuries.

The blaze broke out just before noon Thursday and authorities said its cause was unknown.

“We do know that around the structure, we have some compressed gases that are actually venting from tanks from the heat and actually the tanks are rupturing,” said Capt. Jonathan Jacobs, a Phoenix Fire spokesman.

Phoenix Fire dispatched more than 50 engines and other units to the blaze.

Fire ladder crews sprayed streams of water onto storage facilities and pallets behind several structures and appeared to knock down the huge flames and heavy smoke within 90 minutes.

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said people in surrounding businesses were being asked to evacuate.

Jacobs said crews planned to be at the scene for several more hours.

“We’ve made this a defensive fire. We recognize the dangers,” he said. “Our goal is essentially to take the heat away from the fire and reduce it so that it will stop eating everything up.”

The industrial area in west-central Phoenix is near the junction of Interstates 10 and 17, which are the main freeways to get to Los Angeles and Flagstaff from downtown Phoenix. The fire temporarily closed one westbound ramp from I-10 to I-17.

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