Explosions heard at Omaha chemical fire near downtown; evacuation site set up
Firefighters expect to battle blaze throughout the night
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As thick black smoke visible from miles away billowed above a chemical fire in downtown Omaha on Monday night, fire officials recommended residents in the nearby area evacuate.
Omaha Fire confirmed in a report Monday night that a fire broke out in an industrial building near 20th Street and Woolworth Avenue a few minutes before 7 p.m. Monday. OFD officials initially advised sheltering in place, but later sent an emergency alert out recommending those between 13th and 20th streets and Leavenworth to Martha streets evacuated because of “smoke and fire.”
Authorities sent an alert out around 10:30 p.m. about an evacuation site that had been set up at the Columbus Community Center, located at 1523 S. 24th St., where Red Cross was on hand to assist, Omaha Fire officials said.
Fire crews initially classified it as a two-alarm fire, officially called at 7:17 p.m., according to the Omaha Fire Department report, and firefighters were able to get inside the building. But that the fire was larger than they anticipated, and crews had to exit shortly thereafter, upgrading the incident to a three-alarm fire officially at 7:45 p.m.
6 News crews at the scene reported hearing explosions around 8:15 p.m. Explosions continued every few minutes thereafter as propane tanks and other chemical containers catch fire but seemed to subside about a half-hour later.
As of about 9:15 p.m., no injuries had been reported. The front part of the building collapsed, but no firefighters were inside when that happened, the battalion chief told 6 News. According to the OFD report received late Monday, the fire penetrated the roof, “causing walls to become structurally unstable.”
Fire crews were expecting to fight the fire all night long, hoping that there might be rain to help extinguish the flames.
MUD crews were also assisting as were Union Pacific and Burlington Northern, according to the OFD report. OPPD was also on site as there were high-voltage transmission lines at the scene, the report states.
The investigation into the fire remains ongoing, but the OFD report also noted that anyone with information about potential arson should call its hotline at 402-444-FIRE; or call Crimestoppers at 402-444-STOP.
The OFD report states that the structure is valued at $456,200; that doesn’t include the contents, the value of which has not yet been determined.
According to the fire report, seven engines, three trucks, and two medics were deployed, as were Fire Investigation Units and Haz-mat Rescue crews.
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