Fire cools, fear fades for Atlas neighbors
SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune
Greg Stacy said he wasn’t worried about returning to work Monday, but couldn’t help but wonder what-if.
His brother, Dennis, was the only person in the Stacy Plumbing Supply office at 2909 S. Wilkeson St. in Tacoma on Saturday when explosions at Atlas Castings & Technology across the street sent a mushroom cloud of fire skyward and injured four people.
It was business as usual Monday, but Greg Stacy admitted to thinking often about the propane tank visible from his office window.
“They just put that one over there, and I’m eyeing it and, well, you never know,” he said.
The start of the business week found employees and owners of businesses neighboring Atlas at 3021 S. Wilkeson St. mostly accepting the explosions as a freak accident and considering what might have happened.
For the Stacy family and the plumbing-supply wholesale business they own and operate, the line between accident and major disaster was far too thin.
A 30-foot metal pole – Dennis Stacy figures it came from the top of the chain-link fence near the propane tanks – was still white-hot when it was blown from Atlas and landed on a pallet of boxes containing couplings.
It instantly burned some boxes and surrounding pallets before Stacy put it out with a fire extinguisher. He spent the next few minutes checking for smoldering debris before a police officer spirited him and his dog out of the area.
Had the pole’s path been slightly different the outcome could have been far different.
“If it had landed on the roof, well, I’m sure the warehouse would’ve been gone,” Greg Stacy said.
Cameron Hedayat, owner of Auto Care & Repair at 1717 South Tacoma Way, said he and two others were in the building across from Atlas and got a close-up view of the explosions.
Several windows inside the building were cracked from the concussion.
He said he was scared to remain at his building Saturday, but those fears have faded.
“It seems like they have everything under control now,” he said, “so I’m really not too worried.”
Betty Schwingler, who works at Rosen Supply Co., was the only employee in the building at 2920 Chandler St. when the first blast went off and knocked out the power.
Without electricity, most of the building was completely dark. She made it outside and was watching the fire when the largest explosion happened.
She said 45 to 50 people would normally be in the building if it were a weekday. The warehouse’s roof was lifted several inches by the blast, and there was damage to insulation and the lights.
Schwingler called watching the mushroom cloud “the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“My orthopedist said I’d never run again,” said Schwingler, who had hip-replacement surgery. “Believe me, I ran.”
Scott Fontaine: 253-597-8464