Hundreds of barrels of oil products burn at business on Cleveland's east side

Posted at 11:17 AM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 08:33:52-04

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Cleveland Fire Department are investigating a fire and explosion at a business on Cleveland's east side.

"The cause is yet to be determined," said Gerardo Colon of the Cleveland Fire Department. "It was a triple two-alarm fire with more than 50 firefighters on scene."

Flames erupted from the building on East 76th Street just after 10 a.m. There were no injuries.

"A little fire that was in a five-gallon bucket escalated into massive destruction," said Birney Walker, owner of Ensign Products, Inc. where the fire took place. Ensign manufactures lubricants and rust preventatives.

Walker, who has owned the company since 1989, said his only employee was transferring a substance from a drum into a pail when the fire started.

"He tried to put it out with three different fire extinguishers," added Walker. "He called the fire department, then he called me."

Walker admitted that he did not have sprinklers inside his business. Cleveland Fire said they are investigating whether that violated the city's fire code. Walker was cited for not having a sprinkler system at his business in 2001.

Hazmat, the EPA and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District responded to the scene as toxic chemicals burned. The EPA said none of the run-off materials appear to have entered the environment.

The fire department demanded that nearby residents shelter in place while firefighters battled the blaze. But Vickie Griffin, who lives next door to Ensign, had to evacuate.

"It was like something on TV," said Griffin. "I just grabbed whatever clothing I had and grabbed my purse and kept it moving."

Griffin's house was not damaged. She is back in her home.