Thursday, February 02, 2012

North American T28B: Authorities investigating warehouse fire in Hialeah, Florida. (With Videos)

Warehouse owner Ed Hall, a retired Eastern Airlines captain, said he suspects arson.  "Nothing you can do about it," Hall said.   Hall's T28B fighter plane, which he flew as a Marine in the Korean War, was also in the warehouse and sustained damage.

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HIALEAH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Fire marshals are investigating a warehouse fire that gutted a business.

At around 3:45 a.m., Thursday, Hialeah Fire crews responded to an explosive warehouse fire in the 4700 block of East 11th Avenue. According to officials, the warehouse was not occupied at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.

Firefighters said flames were as high as 20 to 30 feet. District Chief Stephen LaRue said, "The smoke was blowing out from the east, so it was very difficult to see what was going on there, but the fire was massive."

Because the fire was so large, crews decided to go on the defensive and stayed outside as they fought the flames. "We're not going inside of the structure and endanger anybody's life," LaRue said. "We knew from pre-fire planning for this structure that there was lots of stacked up machinery and pipes that could fall and trap somebody inside."

Ed Hall, the businesses owner, said someone called firefighters at about midnight to complain about the smell of smoke. Neighbors said they started to hear explosions around 3 a.m. "I heard two explosions and didn't pay much attention, but then the fire woke us up," Arturo Puentes said through a translator.

According to the owner his business, Innerspace Research, made air compressors for firefighters, scuba divers and paintball guns. Hall, a former pilot, said he not only stored inventory for his business but also a very special memento. "That's a T-28B and I flew it when I was back in flight training in 1954," he said. "Just the engine burned, the rest of airplane is probably OK."

Employees, unaware of the fire, showed up to work around 5 a.m. and were shocked by what they saw. Jorge Loaiza, an employee, spoke through a translator to describe the scene when he arrived to work. He said, "When I arrived and saw the door open I looked. Everything was dark and I realized what had happened."

Hall said the building had four rooms of storage and no internal power, so the fire's source seems a mystery. He said if it is an electrical cause, it would have been outside the structure. If not, arson could be to blame.

The fire marshal continues to investigate the cause of the fire.

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