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Fragrant oils fuel inferno at Dade City Business Center

Firefighters from Pasco work on Thursday at the Dade City Business Center, where a fire broke out Wednesday night at All Natural Botanicals. Insulation kept causing spot fires to pop up throughout Thursday.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Firefighters from Pasco work on Thursday at the Dade City Business Center, where a fire broke out Wednesday night at All Natural Botanicals. Insulation kept causing spot fires to pop up throughout Thursday.

DADE CITY — Drums containing oil fragrances fueled a fire at the Dade City Business Center on U.S. 301 that firefighters say started about 10 p.m. Wednesday night and burned fiercely well into the next day.

Jim Guedry, owner of the industrial park, said Thursday that a security guard noticed smoke coming from a building that houses All Natural Botanicals, a company that makes incense and other products, and called 911. The oil fragrances are stored in 55-gallon drums.

Firefighters responded quickly, but the flames spread through the 30,000-square-foot building just as fast, Guedry said. The building is largely destroyed.

"It was so intense because of what was in there. It was so hot," said Guedry. "It just kept going."

About 75 firefighters from Pasco, Hernando and Zephyrhills worked the fire Wednesday night, officials said. One Pasco firefighter sustained a shoulder injury, but is doing okay, according to Pasco Fire Rescue. About 50 firefighters from Pasco and Zephyrhills remained on scene Thursday.

Timothy Reardon, training chief for Pasco County Fire Rescue, could not say how many drums were in the building.

"We are still fighting the fire," he said Thursday afternoon.

He said the fire was complicated by thick insulation on the building's walls from the days when the center was the Lykes-Pasco packing plant, which, at its peak, was the largest citrus-processing plant in the world. It once employed 2,000 people but closed in 2004. Guedry said the dense insulation keeps the interiors of the buildings 10 degrees cooler.

But Reardon said it kept causing spot fires to pop up throughout Thursday. "It burns," he said, of the insulation.

He said containing the blaze to the one building was the largest hurdle, because the park's 28 buildings are close together.

Reardon said firefighters would remain through the night to make sure the fire doesn't spread.

As of Thursday, investigators had not been able to enter the building to determine how it started or to assess damage.

Guedry said All Natural Botanicals has been in the park since about 2005, with one full-time employee and a few part-time workers.

Its website says the company has been operating more than "25 years, manufacturing a full line of home fragrance, aromatherapy and bath & body products" from natural oils.

The owner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Fragrant oils fuel inferno at Dade City Business Center 11/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 25, 2010 11:58pm]
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