Fire, explosion in Beltsville warehouse when gas tank was left among recycling materials

Damaged warehouse
“It sounded like a bomb had gone off,” Tina Funkhouser told WTOP. (Courtesy Nicholas Neam)
Damaged warehouse
Damaged warehouse after fire and explosions in Beltsville, Maryland, on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (Courtesy Twitter/Prince George’s Fire and EMS)
Damaged warehouse
Damaged warehouse

A gas tank that exploded when it entered the shredder was among several construction material being recycled in a warehouse in Beltsville, Maryland, that caught fire and startled nearby residents and workers.

It happened just before 8 a.m. Friday in an industrial area on Somerset Avenue off Old Baltimore Pike.

Firefighters were called for a reported explosion and found a one-story warehouse with smoke showing on the front of the building.

“It sounded like a bomb had gone off and inside of our building everything was knocked off … phones were off the hook, pictures were off the walls,” said Tina Funkhouser of N&S Towing, which is across the street from waste management and recycling company Sun Services.

“All you could see was smoke everywhere,” Funkhouser told WTOP.

“While on scene, there was another explosion which preliminarily appears to have come from a recycling unit” inside the building, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS tweeted.

The warehouse recycles construction materials. Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Battalion Chief Daniel Frost said that a medium-sized pressurized gas tank was in the recycling material, which was unknown to workers.

The tank exploded upon entering the shredder. Frost said the preliminary cause of the fire was accidental.

The warehouse was evacuated, and the fire was put out by 9 a.m. There were no injuries or transports, Frost said.

The WTOP Traffic Center reported Old Baltimore Pike between Somerset Avenue and Edmonston Road, which was closed due to the fire department activity, had reopened to vehicle traffic at 10:38 a.m.

A map of the area is below.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

Fonda Mwangi

Fonda Mwangi is a Associate Producer at WTOP. Before joining WTOP she was an investigative intern at WJLA. She also wrote for student magazine, Envision, covering finances for college students. Fonda got her Masters in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University.

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