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Chemical spill at pool supply store leads to flash fire
Fire Captain Rob Grycel rushes the front door of the Leslie Pools store on South Main Street as a chemical-fueled fire erupted inside the sales floor area. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A strong chemical odor inside the Leslie Pools store brought firefighters to air out the building after two employees evacuated the store shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. A chemical fire started an hour later inside the front door.

Manteca Fire Battalion Chief David Marques held his men outside the building not knowing what caustic chemicals they were dealing with and called in the San Joaquin County Hazmat Team from Stockton.  Another hazmat specialist employed by the pool company was responding from Oakland.

Firefighters had placed an exhaust fan in the doorway to draw fumes out of the building. They then stood between their engines and waited for the arrival of the hazard materials specialists.

At about 10:30 a.m. one firefighter yelled “fire”. The firefighters scrambled toward the pool sales building.  An immediate call to the dispatcher alerted the call center that they now had a structure fire.  Another fire engine was sent to the scene not knowing what was going to develop once the chemicals started reacting with each other.

Fire Captain Rob Grycel and firefighter Brad Missouri were the first to make it to the front of the building. They grabbed the water line that had already been laid in front of the structure as a preventative measure.

A small blaze centered in and around buckets filled with calcium hypo chloride igniting nearby cardboard displays near the front window. Flames licked up the sides of the containers from the floor level.  Firemen were also concerned about putting water on the fire not knowing if it would cause a chemical reaction as well.

The nearby businesses were notified that they might have to evacuate if the threat worsened in the building.

Firefighters agreed that the outcome of the chemical mix could have been very serious if it had taken place during the predawn hours possibly causing a horrific reaction that could have affected freeway traffic to the south of the store.

The store remained closed throughout the morning hours and orange cones blocked the driveway and parking area.