Warehouse fire still smoldering 24 hours later

ST. LOUIS - It's been a long 24 hours for fire crews in south St. Louis as Wednesday's raging five-alarm warehouse fire is still smoldering.

Bob Grana, a member of the warehouse ownership group, said he’s still trying to wrap his mind around what happened.

“It’s a surreal experience,” he said.

Grana said he was on the phone in his office when he heard coworkers scream.

“I finished my phone call and opened my door and the smoke came in,” he said. “In a matter of minutes, smoke was billowing out the front door.”

Flames and smoke flowed from the 239,000 square-foot warehouse for hours. At its worst, more than 100 fire fighters attempted to tackle the five-alarm blaze.

“Due to the damage, we’re really not going to be able to determine what started this fire,” said Captain Garon Mosby, St. Louis Fire Department. “There’s nothing that leads us to believe the owners of this warehouse did anything wrong.”

Amazingly, only a firefighter and a warehouse employee were injured, both suffering smoke inhalation.

“You can dot all your Is and cross all your Ts and still have a bad day. I’m going to say (Wednesday) was not a bad day,” Mosby said. “It was a close call, but it wasn’t a bad day because we all went home.”

Perhaps the closest of calls came when a wall collapsed, crushing an empty firetruck.

“We lost a fire truck, but we didn’t lose any people,” Mosby said.

As the smoke clears, Grana said the path forward is unclear; offering support while sharing in the shock.

“The biggest thing now, we’ll want to look out for our customers, our tenants, and our employees to make sure they’re taken care of,” he said. “We’re going to persevere and move on.”

Questions remain about air quality near the warehouse. A representative from the EPA said the agency will have representatives at the site Friday morning to work with the fire department to assess and sample debris. According to the EPA, the fire department and health department have concerns the debris may contain asbestos.

An official with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said air tests conducted Wednesday revealed no volatile organic compounds.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Fire Department said its tests have picked up high levels of carbon monoxide, which is very common in these situations.