Bartlett warehouse fire: Crews 'Blown off their feet' when racks collapsed

The massive warehouse fire has been burning for four days in Bartlett, and a close call blew crews off their feet when fighting the flames. 

The fire at the "Access" document storage warehouse started on Thursday. Since then, firefighters have been working around the clock. They are using heavy machinery to knock down the walls. The fire chief says the weather continues to be a major issue, with freezing hydrants and bitter temperatures.

Chief William Gabrenya said the fire crews who went in to tackle the flames on Thursday were blown off their feet when the first few racks collapsed.

"You can imagine what goes through your head when you can’t see in a smoke environment, get knocked off your feet, and hear twisted metal collapsing around you," Gabrenya said in an email update.


The fire chief said emergency traffic was immediately called, and all crews were evacuated – adding the fire department is very fortunate no one was hurt, as the racks fell quickly. 

Initially, the chief projected the fire would take three days to extinguish. On Sunday, he said crews could be out there for a few more days. 

Currently, the department is supporting the demolition crew with fire suppression efforts. As they remove debris, twisted metal and roof decking, crews can reach the deep-seated fire and fully extinguish that area, the chief said. 

A warming tent has been set up to keep crews warm and fed throughout the continuous 24-hour operation.

The chief said the crews have received numerous support from the community with food and water donations. The department acknowledges the help of the surrounding fire departments that have been out there with them around the clock.