Firefighters battled a blaze that completely torched an industrial building on Shamrock Avenue Wednesday evening and unleashed clouds of black smoke that could be seen for miles.
"I could see this huge black plume coming up, and eventually it covered the sun," said Monrovia resident Peter Little, who was was riding his bicycle east on Huntington when the fire broke out. "I just followed the smoke."
Firefighters doused from all angles, including from above, as they tried in vain to save the building. But Fire Chief Christopher Donovan said the building, where the company manufactures machine parts for businesses in the aerospace industry, was a total loss.
Hundreds of people watched the firefight unfold from the sidewalks near the blaze, and kids could be seen coughing while fleeing the wet ash that poured down onto Huntington Drive as the wind blew the smoke northwest.
Jack Peplin, the owner of Southwest Grinding, watched the flames from the sidewalk and told Patch he first heard about the fire on television. He later learned that people from Southwest's neighboring business discovered the fire after smelling something unusual.
"It was too big for them to put out," Peplin said, adding that the building has been his company's home since 1967.
The three-alarm blaze broke out at about 5:40 p.m., with the building's roof caving in within about "five to 10 minutes" of firefighters' arrival, causing them to pull out of the building. No one was in the building when the roof collapsed, said Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Haberle, who also added that no injuries have been reported.
In addition to the building getting burned, several power lines also went down, said Haberle.
About 60 firefighters from various fire departments joined the fight against the blaze, which was contained by about 7 p.m., according to Donovan. The cause remains unknown.
The fire spread quickly because the company used oils, inflammable liquids and other accelerants in its machining process, Donovan said.
The fire also posed an extra threat because Southwest Grinding is located directly behind a gas station, so firefighters set up a defensive position with hose lines in front of the station to keep it from being engulfed, Donovan said.
"It was in close proximity to the structure so we were concerned about that," he said.
The station's car wash was "exposed" to the flames, Donovan said.
"There may be some heat damage and smoke damage but it didn't catch fire," Donovan said.
Because of the potentially toxic chemicals in the building, the department called in a hazardous materials team to check the air and water running off from the firefight, Donovan said.
Patch will update this story with more details as they arrive. If you have photos or video from the fire, please upload them to this page.