'Worst Fire We've Had in Warren County in 50 Years'
By Charlie Denn
Warrenton Oil Company officials said they plan to rebuild the warehouse facility at Truesdale that was destroyed in last Thursday's three-alarm fire.
The early-morning blaze that gutted the company's warehouse and partially damaged adjacent offices has been traced to an electrical outlet on the mezzanine level of the building, fire officials said.
The blaze was discovered before 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, and firefighters responded to the first alarm at 5:33 a.m.
Warrenton Oil's warehouse and office are located at 2299 S. Spoede Lane.
When Warrenton Fire Chief Mike Owenby arrived on the scene at 5:38 a.m., he said he could already see flames shooting out from the sides and the roof of the company's warehouse.
"I knew right away we had a lot of issues," Owenby related.
Within 11 minutes after the first units arrived on the scene, Owenby had requested a second alarm. A third alarm was called for within an hour.
Firefighters from a total of 19 separate fire districts, covering four counties, battled the blaze relentlessly for about six hours before it was satisfactorily under control.
Company employees had not arrived for work yet, and Owenby reported only one injury related to the blaze. An O'Fallon firefighter who suffered a sprained back was treated at an area hospital and released.
"Our primary concerns, as with any fire, are the safety of our people, the safety of the community and putting the fire out," Owenby related.
The warehouse was built in the mid-1990, fire officials said.
It served as Warrenton Oil's major distribution center for its operation which includes 29 FastLane gas stations and convenience stores, several car washes and two hotels.
The family-owned company has approximately 470 employees.
"We sincerely appreciate the outpouring of support from the community officials, neighbors, employees and business associates," said Warrenton Oil vice president Mark Baker.
Heavy clouds of thick black smoke filled the sky for several hours as firefighters tried to bring the blaze under control. Highway M, which fronts Warrenton Oil, was closed throughout the day.