Storage Building A Total Loss In Wednesday Fire

TEA, S.D. – Several crews worked for 5 hours Wednesday battling a business fire just off I-29 at the Tea exit.

No one was inside the building and no one was hurt.

But a firefighter did have to be rushed to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

He has since been released and doing fine.

Crews had to knock down the structure, which Thornton Flooring owns and uses as storage, to put out the flames locked inside.

“It started smoking out of the top, so we evacuated everybody at that point,” says DJ Olmstead.

Black smoke billowing into the sky, and flames breaking through the roof of a building is what Olmstead witnessed right before going to lunch.

“Oh man, at first it’s just terrifying,” he says.

The fire broke out right next to Twin City Fan, where Olmstead works.

He says his building houses many flammable chemicals and fiber glass.

“You know what it’s in our building and if our building goes up, we’ll be lucky if everyone gets out safely,” he says.

Fire crews were able to contain the fire to the Thornton Flooring storage building.

But they did come across some challenges.

“We’re dealing with toxic fumes,” says Assistant Fire Chief for Tea Fire Rescue, Steven Oberle. “The whole fact of the carpet, of what they’re made of, all it is is insulation.”

Oberle says the wind helped dissipate those fumes.

However, the sun was not helping.

“It is darn hot,” says Oberle. “When you put on a bunch of gear, it keeps our heat in.”

Oberle says they rotated out crew members as often as they could.

“We’re trying to keep ourselves hydrated and ventilated, so that when we go send guys to rehab, they’re taking coats off, they’re getting vitals taken,” says Oberle. “[We’re] just trying to get them as refreshed as possible, as soon as possible.”

Another issue fire crews ran into, there wasn’t a fire hydrant near the building.

Tea Fire Rescue had to go across the street to hook up to the water, causing them to block in many businesses.

“We had to set up our pumps and our drop tanks to relay pump into our two trucks here,” says Oberle.

The assistant fire chief says they’ve been looking at installing fire hydrants for quite some time.

“This development here, they’ve been trying to work with the county and figure out a way to get that mitigated to get hydrants out here for us,” says Oberle. “Unfortunately, that’s a process. That’s politics, personal, I don’t want to get into it.”

Sioux Falls, Harrisburg and Lennox fire departments assisted with the fire.

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