What investigators think sparked soda bottle warehouse fire

Posted at 7:30 PM, Nov 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-03 19:44:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. – Fire investigators said they know what likely caused a three-alarm blaze at a Manchester warehouse that caused massive plumes of black smoke south of the James River on Saturday.

Crews arrived to 1104 Gordon Avenue at 7:07 a.m.

"I was surprised that most of the buildings here did not actually go up,” said Howard Chawlk, who watched the fire from two blocks away.

Chawlk was not alone. Many who saw the smoke and flames thought more than one warehouse on Gordon Avenue was on fire.

Gerhard Van Rensburgh, who just bought a nearby  warehouse two months ago, imagined the worst when he was driving to work on Saturday.


"It was huge, you could see it for miles,” Van Rensburgh said.

But Van Rensburgh quickly realized his warehouse, which is just two buildings away from the warehouse that caught fire, was spared thanks to  Richmond firefighters.

River City Recycling owner Mathew Appelget, who owns the building next door to the warehouse that caught fire, is grateful to firefighters.

"The fire department did a great job protecting all the 11 units that are here on Gordon Avenue that make up part of this industrial complex,” Appelget said.

Investigators believe the fire was accidental and was likely sparked by an electrical outlet or a light in the ceiling.

Appelget said the building that caught fire was used for storage.

"The building that burned was a storage facility for post-consumer PET soda bottles. It's like the soda bottle you discard. They were storing those soda bottles there to be sold to a fiber manufacturer at a later date,” Appelget explained.

Appelget said there is barely any damage to his recycling building and that the recycling center was able to reopen on Sunday.