Investigators describe why Puyallup commercial fire was so difficult to put out

Fire crews have wrapped up their investigation into a massive cold storage facility fire in Puyallup that burned for nearly a week.

On Aug. 21, neighbors within a mile radius of 15th Street SE and E Main Street in Puyallup were evacuated for several hours due to concerns of an explosion or toxic chemicals at the scene. The facility contained 1,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia.

That, and several other factors, made it difficult for crews to put the flames out, according to Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.

The extinguishment of the fire was complicated by many factors, including large amounts of anhydrous ammonia, rapid-fire growth, large amounts of combustible products, and 130 years of various construction, according to Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.

"The subsequent scene exam contended with the same issues in a now mostly consumed and structurally compromised approximately 100,000 sqft. building containing an estimated five million pounds of perishable food products. Also embedded/interlaced in massive amounts of melted plastic were 130 years of plumbing, refrigeration, and electrical lines which had to inspected," Central Pierce Fire & Rescue wrote on Facebook. 

Central Pierce Fire & Rescue crews said this required the use of heavy equipment, which was delayed due to officials requiring asbestos testing before allowing the heavy equipment to operate in the scene. 

The scene was deemed hazardous due to the off-gassing products of combustion, rotting foods, and asbestos which also slowed the investigation and the contractors' removal of the debris.

A complete scene exam was not possible due to the need to balance the public health issues with the examination of the scene and the available resources. 

Investigators will release their full findings, as well as a possible cause, at a later date. 

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