On Wednesday, ABC7 News spoke with several people who were inside the building when the fire broke out.
“When you see fire and – threatening fire – large chunks of burning material falling, you feel like it’s going to grab you,” Jeff Baham told ABC7 News.
He and his wife were queuing for paint when an employee alerted them to a fire inside the store and ordered the couple and others to evacuate.
VIDEO: Pets from nearby business rush to safety during SJ Home Depot fire
Baham said shortly after that a similar announcement played over the store’s public address system.
“There was no panic. No one seemed panicked,” he added. “I think maybe it was because there was no fire alarm. You know, we didn’t really know how bad it was.”
“But everyone knew it was time to go! There’s a fire,” Baham said.
Several witnesses shared identical reports, confirming that there was no sign of active sprinklers and no immediate fire alarms.
VIDEO: Massive fire tears Home Depot apart in SJ
“I was literally at the back of the store – as far as any customer could go without entering the loading dock. I made it all the way to the front, and it wasn’t until I I reached the middle of the parking lot when the fire alarm finally went off,” witness Rick Garcia said. “And it only exploded three times. It was like, ‘ehh, ehh, ehh’, done. That’s it. And by then everyone was already out.”
ABC7 News asked San Jose Fire about these claims. The SJPD said reports of inspections, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems are still under investigation.
Garcia said he was only a few feet from where he thought the fire started, in an area with roofing and building materials.
“There are wooden doors, there are roofing materials,” he described. “So you’re talking about tar, tar paper, adhesives. There’s insulation in that area as well.”
Garcia is adamant that there was no working fire suppression system and explained that for days he tried to get information about the scene from investigators.
RELATED: Crews continue to extinguish hotspots at San Jose Home Depot after massive fire destroys building
“This is my third day coming back now because I just felt like I needed to say something,” he said. “I feel like I’m the closest person to where the fire started without being directly in front of the fire.”
Garcia also shared his frustration.
“I had to say to two gentlemen in front of me – they were Spanish speakers – so I had to let them know in Spanish: ‘Hey, there’s a fire. We have to go “because they didn’t understand what was being said on the PA system,” Garcia said. not a good thing.”
“We’re all lucky, very lucky to get out of there,” Baham told ABC7 News. “But if somebody wasn’t paying attention or something – to really what was going on … or maybe they were in the toilet or something and they couldn’t hear people running everywhere saying, ‘Everyone get out of here,’ if not for the fire alarms going off, it might have been a different situation for them.”
Baham added: “Everyone is out so I feel like I can be a bit more introspective about it since everyone was safe. But I kind of wonder why there isn’t had a fire alarm until the fire was already coming out of the ceiling.”
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Video taken at the scene showed the final calls to have the building cleared. Ultimately, no injuries were reported in the raging fire.
“Just to capture that and show how quickly the store went from, you know, normal Home Depot to hell, it was pretty amazing,” Philip Hurst told ABC7 News.
Witnesses praise Home Depot employees for getting everyone out of the building.
“I don’t know why someone didn’t just set off a fire alarm, you know?” But anyway, they rushed us out. Baham shared, “I give the Home Depot employees great credit for making us take them seriously and walk away.”
“Fortunately, the Home Depot employees were — they were on top of it all,” Garcia said. “People got out of there because of the employees.”
In a statement, SJFD Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. said, “The San Jose Fire Department is grateful to ATF NRT and the resources they bring to this investigation.”
“SJFD and ATF officers will work cooperatively and quickly to take witness statements and fully investigate the cause of the fire. SJFD remains the lead agency in this investigation and appreciates the support usually offered. by the ATF NRT on incidents of this magnitude,” said the release continued.
This request was also posted in SJFD’s statement, Wednesday: Anyone with information about this fire should contact ATF and SJFD at 1-(888)-ATF-Fire (1-888-283-3473) or by visiting www.reportit .com or through the “reportit” mobile application, available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. All calls and advice can be kept confidential.
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