At least 30 cars damaged after explosive fire at Phoenix business; no injuries

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 5:00 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 21, 2023 at 1:34 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Dozens of cars are damaged and hundreds of propane tanks are scattered around a neighborhood near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport after an explosive fire at a nearby propane business on Thursday afternoon. Fire crews were called out to Bill’s Propane Service on 40th Street and Washington Street around 5 p.m. When they got there, flames were shooting out of the business, and propane tanks were being shot into the air. “They literally become missiles,” Phoenix Fire Capt. Rob McDade said. “Very dangerous situation.”

More than 150 firefighters battled the flames at the height of the fire, which burned through at least 30 vehicles. Firefighters cleared a mile radius around the business. Homes northeast of the business were told to evacuate. After a couple of hours, they were allowed to return. However, businesses are still evacuated. The Arizona Animal Welfare League has its main shelter nearby, but firefighters say it was evacuated but it didn’t catch fire. Gateway Community College was evacuated, too. Aerial video showed rows of cars damaged at Sundance Airport Parking. It’s unclear what started the fire.

When the fire first started, an Arizona Department of Transportation camera showed flames shooting out of the business and thick black smoke could be seen for miles. Flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport weren’t impacted. Some Valley Metro light-rail trains had routes changed, but all stations are now open and operations are back to normal. Sundance Airport Parking lot is closed indefinitely. Officials are asking people to drive directly to Sky Harbor Airport parking at 402 S. 40th Street.

McDade said this type of fire is harder to fight compared to a typical building on fire. They have to surround it, cool the area down, and then turn off the gas.

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, Letterman’s Energy, the owner of Bill’s Propane Service, said: “We’re grateful to the first responders for their assistance and we’re partnering with the appropriate authorities to better understand the incident. Most important to us is that our teammates and members of the community are all safe.”

It happened at 40th Street and Washington Street.
It happened at 40th Street and Washington Street.(Arizona's Family)

A spokesperson for AAWL said the campus has minimal damage from the fire and flying shrapnel, and was able to open for adoptions at 10:30 a.m. Friday “Fortunately, all our animals and humans are safe because of our amazing staff, volunteers, and community members who helped evacuate our animals after the fire broke out,” AAWL said in a statement. “Special thanks to all the firefighters who were able to contain the explosive fire during the intense heat to ensure it didn’t cross into our shelter, and to Heidi’s Village for housing several of our animals during the evacuation. We are so grateful for our amazing community who cares so much about our animals.”

Editor’s Note: The story is updated to say the propane tanks could fly 500 yards, not just 500 feet.

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