Phoenix FD: Faulty equipment to blame in oil recycling fire

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More than 100 firefighters battled Tuesday's blaze in an industrial area northwest of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Source: CBS 5 News) More than 100 firefighters battled Tuesday's blaze in an industrial area northwest of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Source: CBS 5 News)

A fire Tuesday at an oil recycling business in Phoenix that burned two men has been traced to faulty equipment, the Phoenix Fire Department said.

Fire inspectors said Thursday that gas dripped from a faulty pump onto a hot motor and ignited.

The fire occurred as used automotive oil was being transferred from a rail tanker to a truck at Fuels, LLC on S. 23rd Street.

Surrounding the industrial area where the massive fire broke out are a number of motels that were full of guests.

"We just heard a knock on the door and there was this lady. She was like you gotta evacuate. You gotta evacuate," explained Junior Lorenzo. Lorenzo was staying at the Motel 6 near S. 24th Street and E. Jefferson Avenue

Just outside his window, there were at least six to eight explosions. Firefighters on the way already knew what was awaiting them.

"They saw the big plumb [of smoke] from a distance," added Capt. Benjamin Santillan of Phoenix Fire.

The fire shut down part of the nearby light rail service and air traffic was rerouted away from smoke billowing near Sky Harbor International Airport.

Two workers at the company that recycles used motor oil, "... were offloading some used motor oil into a semi truck when they had a spontaneous combustion. Something set a fire," Santillan explained.

The blast and fire left both of them with severe third-degree burns.

"When they [firefighters] arrived they saw the gentleman in the middle of the street, severely burned, screaming for help," Santillan said.

Getting the fire under control wasn't the only focus for first responders. It was also to provide potentially life-saving care for the victims when they needed it most.

Santillan added that the injuries were, "... severe enough that one component of this whole entire fire was dedicated to them."

They were rushed to the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center.

"One [victim] has about a 50 percent total body surface area burn. The other is about a 15 percent total body surface area burn," said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of Burn Services at the burn center.

Foster says the worker who is most critical remains on a breathing machine and is still very sedated in the ICU.

"Half of his skin is gone, and that means he will not be able to regulate his temperature very well. He's very susceptible to losing fluid, and very susceptible to getting an infection," Foster said.

Foster said they were able to remove all of the burned skin on both workers. That's good news because the sooner doctors get the dead stuff off, the better the patient is. Victims who have suffered 50 percent burns and are treated at the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center usually live.

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