OLDSMAR — A thick column of black smoke shot from the roof of the Lockheed Martin plant on Tampa Road on Tuesday afternoon. It caught the attention of residents throughout Oldsmar, including Mayor Jim Ronecker, who drove to the scene.
But, inside, engineer Joseph Broadbent didn't know about the blaze until he got a call from his wife.
"You've got to get out of there," she told him. "It's on fire."
Soon after, the fire alarm started to blare.
Smoke and flames were first reported about 1:40 p.m, authorities said. The fire scorched part of the roof at the plant at 3655 Tampa Road. Crews from Oldsmar and Safety Harbor quickly put out the flames.
Roughly 40 emergency units, from Tarpon Springs to Treasure Island, headed to the defense contractor's plant. As a precaution, the emergency was upgraded to a hazardous materials call, said Oldsmar Fire Chief Dean O'Nale.
"We know they have solvents, cleaners and acids," he said.
The large volume of units, which included supervisors, was a "typical response" for a fire and hazardous material call at a big industrial plant, O'Nale said.
More than 500 employees were evacuated, and no one was injured. For about an hour, hundreds of Lockheed Martin workers, most in blue coats, stood on the lawn in front of the plant. Around 2:45, they began filing back inside.
After the fire was out, firefighters made sure that no flames had intruded into the building from the roof, O'Nale said.
Hazardous materials teams then surveyed the site to make sure there were no toxic chemicals in water runoff from the firefighting efforts. By around 3 p.m., those teams said the water was clear.
The fire started on the building's roof, the chief said. That section of roof was above a portion of the building that contained parts and computer equipment and was mostly used for storage.
Fire officials didn't have a damage estimate by early Tuesday evening, but O'Nale said the damage appeared to be contained to the roof area. Inside, there was mainly water damage.
Lockheed Martin is one of the world's biggest defense contractors, a global aerospace, defense and security company. It has two locations in Pinellas County — an aeronautics facility in Pinellas Park, and a "tactical operations" plant on the Tampa Road east of McMullen-Booth Road in Oldsmar.
Curt Engel, general manager of the plant, said all the employees were safely evacuated. He said the plant does electronics assembly for the U.S. Defense Department, but he declined to be more specific.
Times staff writers Peter Jamison and Diane Steinle contributed to this report. Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.