No injuries reported in Nebraska chemical fire; cause unknown

As thick black smoke visible from miles away billowed above a fire in downtown Omaha, fire officials were recommending residents nearby evacuate.
Published: May. 30, 2022 at 7:59 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 31, 2022 at 7:29 AM AKDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As thick black smoke visible from miles away billowed above a chemical fire in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, fire officials were recommending residents nearby evacuate.

Omaha Fire confirmed in a report that a fire broke out in an industrial building near 20th Street and Woolworth Avenue a few minutes before 7 p.m. Monday.

No one was reported to be inside the building. No injuries were reported.

Fire officials had initially advised sheltering in place but later sent an emergency alert out recommending those between 13th and 20th streets and Leavenworth to Martha streets evacuate because of “smoke and fire,” WOWT reports.

Authorities sent an alert out around 10:30 p.m. about an evacuation site that had been set up at the Columbus Community Center, where Red Cross was on hand to assist, fire officials said.

Fire crews initially classified the blaze as a two-alarm fire, and firefighters were able to get inside the building. But the fire was larger than they anticipated, and crews had to exit shortly thereafter, upgrading the incident to a three-alarm fire officially at 7:45 p.m.

WOWT crews at the scene reported hearing explosions around 8:15 p.m. Explosions continued every few minutes thereafter as propane tanks and other chemical containers caught fire.

The explosions seemed to subside about a half-hour later.

Thick black smoke, visible from miles away, billowed above a chemical fire in downtown Omaha,...
Thick black smoke, visible from miles away, billowed above a chemical fire in downtown Omaha, Nebraska.(PHOTO: WOWT)

As of about 9:15 p.m., no injuries had been reported. The front part of the building collapsed, but no firefighters were inside when that happened, the battalion chief said. According to the OFD report received late Monday, the fire penetrated the roof, “causing walls to become structurally unstable.”

Fire crews were expecting to fight the fire all night long, hoping that there might be rain to help extinguish the flames.

According to the fire report, seven engines, three trucks and two medics were deployed, as were Fire Investigation Units and Haz-mat Rescue crews.

Crews with the Metropolitan Utilities District were also assisting, as were Union Pacific and Burlington Northern, according to the OFD report. Police were also on site, as there were high-voltage transmission lines at the scene, the report states.

The investigation into the fire remains ongoing, but the OFD report also noted that anyone with information about potential arson should call its hotline at 402-444-FIRE; or call Crimestoppers at 402-444-STOP.

The OFD report states that the structure is valued at $456,200. That doesn’t include the contents, the value of which has not yet been determined.

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