BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A city warehouse that once held toxic
chemicals was destroyed in a fire Sunday that caused $7.5 million
in damage and melted the vinyl siding on nearby homes.
The block-long, single-story warehouse was reduced to rubble and
blackened wreckage. The heat from the flames melted the building's
steel beams and by afternoon piles of warped beams, bricks and a
white powdery substance were all that was left of the structure.
Fluorescent orange liquid poured from the building and into the
streets, flowing beneath the cars in a nearby used car lot and
creating a puddle behind the building. An caustic odor hung in the
air around the fire scene.
"It looked lije$a big fireball from one end of the building to
the other," Robert Vitko, who watched the blaze across the street
from his home, told The Buffalo News. "It was one solid mass of
flame ... an inferno."
The fire broke out shortly before 3:22 a.m. Firefighters were
still at the site Sunday afternoon.
Officials said the fire may have started in a car, parked in a
pathway between the warehouse and the building next door. Edwin
Orta, a fire marshal and senior investigator, said the cause of the
fire probably won't be determined for several days.
Buffalo Common Council member Joseph Golombek Jr. noted that a
three-alarm blaze on April 15 gutted a former manufacturing plant
in the same area and caused $1.5 million in damage. Two men are
charged with setting that fire. Fire investigators suspect a recent
fire at a former driving range was also the work of arsonists.
Golombek said he plans to contact state environmental officials
about Sunday's blaze.
The builing, formerly known as Morgan Materials, operated as a
brokerage for more than 30 years, taking in chemicals such as dyes,
resins, lubricating oils and flavoring agents then testing and
repackaging them for resale.
Nearly 21,000 drums of hazardous chemicals were removed from the
building four years ago as part of a federal Superfund project.
Michael Franks of the state Department of Environmental
Conservation was at the site to confirm that the Environmental
Protection Agency had removed all hazardous chemicals from the
warehouse.
Police Division Chief Thomas Ashe said he was told by the
building's manager that the colored liquid flowing out of the
warehouse was caused by food dye and that no hazardous chemicals
were in the building. Ashe said rubber was the only material of
concern.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)