Firefighters Knock Down Fire After Three Hours at Food Processing Plant

The fire was contained to duct work in the drop ceiling, fire officials said

A fire raced through the ductwork of a commercial building in South Los Angeles, eventually burning through the roof and forcing firefighters to fight the flames from outside the structure before gaining control of the blaze.

More than 170 firefighters battled the fire at a food processing plant in the Central-Alameda neighborhood of South Los Angeles on Monday night, until officials declared a knockdown three hours later, just after 11 p.m. Employees were inside the building when the fire started, but firefighters could not immediately confirm the number of people.

The fire was reported shortly after 8 p.m. at 4020 South Compton Ave., according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The building is a food processing plant called Proportion Foods, which is used to process ground beef.

Fifteen-foot flames shot up due to an "active gas leak" inside the structure, said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart. 

Two HazMat Task Forces were working to identify the chemicals in and around the structure.

"Some explosions have been heard which are likely propane tanks on forklifts inside the structure," Stewart said. 

Neighbors were asked to close their doors and windows as the fire raged on. 

Any workers present were evacuated safely. No injuries were reported.

Crews remained on scene early Tuesday to monitor hot spots, and were expected to conduct salvage and overhaul operations, Stewart said.

Members of the LAFD's Arson Unit were also expected to remain on scene to investigate the cause, she said.

More than 400 employees who work at the plant faced an uncertain immediate future Tuesday. Although some saw the fire on the news, others arrived ready to work only to find half of the 75,000-square foot plant had been destroyed. 

Jonathan Gonzalez and City News Service contributed to this report.

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