Acting Fire Chief Brian Enterline said Monday’s three-alarm fire on Cameron Street in Harrisburg was accidental, caused by “an electrical arc in the area of a fuel pump.”
The first crew was dispatched at 5:22 p.m. People miles away from Paxton Center could see the smoke rising.
The fire started in a garage owned by Hebron Inc., a company that disassembles cars for recycling.
Enterline said he’s unsure what caused the initial spark, adding investigators never may know.
Employees were transferring fuel at the time. Enterline said the spark “ignited gasoline vapors and quickly spread with the available gasoline that was being stored in large tanks in the area.”
Enterline said the tanks had a capacity of 275 gallons, but he did now know how full those tanks were when the fire started.
Enterline said five firefighters had minor injuries, adding that when a wall collapsed it “narrowly missed trapping” two of those firefighters.
The damage has been estimated at $3.92 million, with eight businesses being affected.
Enterline added that when crews arrived at the scene, they knew there were chemicals stored at the facility but did not know which ones. He said businesses are required to disclose that information but acknowledged enforcement of that requirement has been lax.
“A lot of things in the city go unreported properly. Some of that is a lack of communications on our part over the last several years, and some of that is a lack of the ability of some of the business owners to know all the laws and standards they need to meet,” said Enterline.
He said the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection also was at the scene of the fire to ensure hazardous materials did not get into the water system.