Five people were sent to the hospital Wednesday night after an explosion at a building in central quickly turned into a two-alarm fire, officials said.
Shortly before 11:45 p.m., several 911 calls were received reporting heavy smoke, flames and explosions from a jojoba oil processing facility in the 2100 block of East Beverly Drive, in the area of East 22nd Street and East Aviation Parkway, said Captain Andy Skaggs, a Tucson Fire Department spokesman.
The first unit arrived at the scene within five minutes, and saw heavy fire involvement with a partial building collapse and multiple victims, Skaggs said.
Firefighters and paramedics began treating the victims, while other firefighters began to battle the blaze from the outside of the building. Additional resources were needed and a second alarm was called in, Skaggs said.
Three aerial ladder trucks were used to fight the fire from above and multiple hose lines were used, flooding the fire with water.
Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby building, but dealt with access problems, including power lines in the way, a broken gas line, a broken fire sprinkler line and the partial collapse of the building, Skaggs said.
Six employees were working at facility when the explosion occurred. Five of the employees were taken to the hospital and the sixth didn't need treatment, Skaggs said.
It took 19 units consisting of 46 firefighters nearly two-and-a half hours to bring the fire under control. No firefighters were injured.
Employees from Southwest Gas, Tucson Electric Power and Tucson Water helped control utilities while firefighters worked to control the blaze.
Crews remained on scene through the night to put out any hot spots and flare ups that may occur, Skaggs said.
Fire investigators are looking into the cause and origin of the explosion. A damage estimate was not yet available.
The company listed at the address is Desert Whale Jojoba Co., which describes itself on its website as owner of one of the largest organic jojoba farm in the world, with more than 2,000 acres of producing plants about 200 miles west of Tucson. The company said it provides the product as natural materials for cosmetics and other personal care products.