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Morning fire ravages warehouse
By EDIE GROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 2000
CLEARWATER -- As several employees of H.B. Adams Distributors Inc. stood outside the charred hull of what was once their office and warehouse Monday afternoon, the large metal sign on the front of the building slipped off and slammed into the parking lot pavement.
"Guess that pretty much sums up the day, doesn't it?" said Dan Sarrett, regional operations manager for the air conditioning and refrigeration company. "It's like icing on a cake."
The fire that tore through H.B. Adams Distributors at 2050 Palmetto St. about 4 a.m. Monday destroyed about $2.5-million in inventory and two company trucks.
"Here comes your stock," building owner Bruce Adams quipped to Sarrett as a bulldozer pushed a heap of burned goods from the building. "Going to hold a fire sale?"
The 30-year-old structure's metal walls and steel supports remained, but all had visible scars from the blaze that took about 40 firefighters 31/2 hours to put down.
"You can actually see where the heat was so intense the steel is twisted," said Charlie Flowers, spokesman for the Clearwater Fire Department.
Officials were not sure what caused the fire, but said it probably started in the southeast corner of the 22,000-square-foot building.
"It's going to take all day just to dig down to the point where we can start investigating," Flowers said.
When firefighters arrived at the building one block east of Hercules Avenue, the fire had already punched through the skylights, and the edges of the bay doors were glowing, Flowers said. Several canisters of compressed gas in the building exploded after firefighters arrived.
Firefighters from Clearwater, Dunedin, Largo and Safety Harbor set up streams of water on all four sides of the building to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby offices and some woods across the street, Flowers said.
No one was seriously injured, but several firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration, Flowers said.
Rick Postoll, vice president of the company, said the Tampa office of H.B. Adams Distributors will be able to deliver equipment to customers until the Clearwater office can reopen. The company probably will look for a smaller warehouse in Pinellas County to serve as a pickup point for other customers, he said.
Sarrett and Postoll said they were just glad that the fire did not spread beyond the building and that no one was hurt.
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