5-alarm warehouse fire sends toxic smoke into air

ST. LOUIS, Mo. _Firefighters tackled hot spots into the night at a huge warehouse fire in south St. Louis. The fire prompted warnings about the toxic smoke.

It started around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the block-long warehouse on 39th at Park Avenue in the Botanical Heights neighborhood.

The warehouse held 150,000 citronella candles, many paperback books from a local publisher and even some toys donated to the Shriner's Hospital for an upcoming Christmas party.

Firefighters have yet to enter the building and say they may never know what caused the fire.

It is unclear what toxins are in the air, but residents in the direct path of the smoke were urged to shelter in place.

Fire Captain Garon Mosby says "A great majority of these chemicals will evaporate into the atmosphere. Our greatest concern is the potential for the chemicals to become an inhalation irritant, particularly to those with compromised respiratory concerns. We reiterate the need to reduce exposure to the smoke."

The smoke from the fire was so thick, it showed up on the National Weather Service radar. The smoke spread southeast from the warehouse, across the river into Illinois.

At least two walls collapsed and a fire truck suffered heavy damage, but it may have saved lives, shielding people from the falling debris.

A worker inside of the warehouse was treated for smoke inhalation and a firefighter suffered minor burns.

The Shriners' executive director is asking for your help to replace what has been lost.