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Fireball Gushes Through Fullerton Plant

July 22, 1987|JONATHAN WEISMAN | Times Staff Writer

A fireball apparently fed by paints and lacquers flashed through a Fullerton picture frame manufacturing plant Tuesday night, nearly gutting the wooden building before firefighters could even set up operations, Battalion Chief Mark Martin said.

No one was injured, Martin said. There was no estimate of damages, but the structure was destroyed. About 30 firefighters and equipment from Fullerton, Buena Park, Brea and La Habra battled the fire from 5:50 p.m. until at least 8:30 p.m., Martin said.

A huge plume of smoke that could be seen for miles rose from the flaming structure. Fullerton police sealed off Harbor Boulevard between Santa Fe Avenue and Valencia Drive as fire debris was blown onto the busy street. It was reopened about 8:20 p.m., a department spokesman said Tuesday night.

Martin could not identify the firms in the building at 114 W. Walnut Ave., but a sign on a wall still standing named two: Freeman Art and Frames and Linen Liners Inc.

John Thomas, a Fullerton fire protection analyst and spokesman, said all reports indicated that there had been no injuries or evacuations and that the fire posed no threat to neighboring businesses.

Firefighters poured water down onto the flames from ladder trucks and through ground lines, but no one was allowed into the burned-out shell for fear of possibly toxic fumes from the paints and lacquers, Martin said. Those fumes posed no danger to residences a block away, he said, and no evacuations were necessary.

Onlookers gathered around the police cordon, some sitting on top of boxcars parked just outside the Fullerton Amtrak station a block away. The fire scene took on a carnival atmosphere as children and adults rode bicycles along the tracks and darted around freight trains to get a better look. Amateur photographers peeped around police officers for a few shots.

"People are being obnoxious," an Amtrak station ticket clerk said.

But the trains kept running, she said.

Martin said he would not guess how the fire started, but he said nothing would be ruled out. The investigation began about 9 p.m., according to a fire dispatch report, and would probably continue well into the night.

The fire started easily and quickly because of the wooden building and picture frames, Martin said. The paints and lacquers probably helped keep it going. He did not know exactly how old the building was.

Times staff writer Bob Schwartz contributed to this story.

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