May 22--MCALLEN -- Firefighters responded to an extremely rare three-alarm blaze Wednesday night, when a ropa usada warehouse near Military Highway and South 27th Street started burning.
The McAllen Fire Department, Mission Fire Department and Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department successfully contained the blaze and saved several surrounding buildings, said McAllen Fire Chief Rafael Balderas, who stayed at the scene past 1 a.m. Thursday.
McAllen last experienced a three-alarm blaze roughly four years ago, Balderas said, when flames erupted from the old Osment's building on Nolana Avenue.
"At the third alarm, that means that almost every unit from McAllen came," Balderas said, adding that the city requested help from neighboring departments both to extinguish the blaze and cover for units busy fighting the flames.
McAllen received the call at 11:33 p.m. By 11:40 p.m., firefighters were breaking down the locked warehouse door, Balderas said. They stopped the blaze from spreading to neighboring warehouses to the north and west.
"Thank God for mutual aid. When we have a major fire like this, mutual aid is very important," Balderas said. "And that's why we all work together. In the fire service, we all help each other out. Today, we needed mutual aid -- other days, we've gone over to other cities."
The preliminary investigation revealed that someone deliberately torched the warehouse, Balderas said, adding that they're following several promising leads. Someone attempted to burn down a nearby warehouse last year, but wasn't successful.
On Wednesday, someone cut through the warehouse wall, tossed an accelerant inside and sparked the fire, Balderas said. Investigators recovered evidence from the scene and have already traced the materials back to where they were sold.
"We're working on some great leads," Balderas said. "And we may put some pictures out here pretty soon of some suspects intentionally setting the fire."
Copyright 2014 - The Monitor, McAllen, Texas