Fire crews were still there Thursday evening watching for flare-ups. Flames from the intense blaze lit up the early morning sky over San Jose. A giant warehouse was on fire only feet from a small neighborhood where Gustavo Lopez lives. "The flames were extremely high, explosions. It was crazy," he said.
Parts of the 80,000 square foot warehouse, once a 1940's-era canner, were three-stories tall. The building was split into two, separated by a fire wall and was mostly vacant with only a few businesses inside -- including a roof and tile company. The flames gobbled up the building. Firefighters say the explosions were some propane tanks that ignited inside the warehouse.
Neighbors on West Ct. were quickly evacuated. "The thing was all the panicking. Everybody was rushing out, jumping in their cars trying to take off, and it was causing a lot of mayhem with the streets because it's a court. You can't go in and out," Lopez said.
They took everybody out of their houses on that side for sure. They pushed everybody down the street. And they told us not to wait until it's over and they told us all to leave, but they didn't tell anybody where to go or anything," said West Ct. resident Melanie Mason.
By daybreak the fire was still burning. Some garages and outbuildings burned, but all nearby homes were saved. The 120,000 square-foot warehouse was home to six businesses including a livestock feed store which sold hay bales -- too much fuel for firefighters to go inside.
"It was such a big fire that we instantly went defensive. So there was a first round of companies called a second and third alarm and they went defensive, which that the fought the fire from the outside," explained San Jose Fire Capt. Barry Ehlers.
Part of the warehouse, once a 1940's-era cannery, was three stories.
Jeff Simmons lost part of his insulation business. "They had it under control for a minute and stuff started blowing up and now it's gone 10 times worse than it was to begin with," he told ABC7 News as the fire was burning.
The blaze forced the closure of a preschool and Empire Gardens Elementary, where parents had to return to pick up their kids. Other neighbors in the area were told to shelter-in-place from the smoke.
Firefighters will now search for a cause to this massive blaze and could be on scene for the next couple of days.