CHICKASHA, Okla. (KFOR) – A fire at the old Chickasha Manufacturing building uncovered what was illegally being stored there.
“The city’s lost a magnificent building,” said Curtis Hart, who witnessed the fire. “It’s a huge loss.”
The more than 100,000 square foot building burst into flames on Sunday afternoon, which led to the discovery of thousands of pallets of hand sanitizer being stored both inside and around the exterior of the building.
“We’re looking in the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 million gallons of 75% alcohol-based hand sanitizer burning,” said Tony Samaniego, the Chickasha Fire Chief. “Alcohol is flammable, very flammable, especially in that concentration.”
To put that amount into context, 1.5 million gallons of sanitizer is enough to fill up more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to Samangiego, the building did not have an occupancy permit.
It turns out the hidden hazard wasn’t the building’s only violation.
“It did not have a working sprinkler system or fire alarm,” said Samangiego.
An engineer from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says this should serve as a reminder of how dangerous storing material like this can be.
“With hand sanitizers, especially in warmer climates or stored in large quantities, because they are giving off vapor so readily, they can cause large scale fires such as this one,” said Alex Ing. “Many facilities can underestimate the intensity of fire that can result from one pallet of flammable liquid, let alone hundreds of pallets.”
The fire has been the talk of the town, but those in charge of the investigation said they’re still trying to figure out why that much hand sanitizer was being stored in the building.
“There’s multiple levels to this investigation,” said Samangiego.
The Chickasha Fire Department is also teaming up with the State Fire Marshal to determine the cause.
“We don’t know if it’s accidental, whether it was arson or not,” said Samangiego. “Until last night’s rain, we weren’t even able to get very close.”