TYLER - The Smith County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating a commercial fire that prompted evacuations Tuesday afternoon. No injuries were reported in the incident.
Numerous explosions could be heard from Tyler Welders Supply located at 3539 State Highway 271 in Tyler starting around 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
First responders evacuated the area within a half-mile radius of the business as a precaution, and a shelter was opened at Pine Springs Baptist Church on County Road 334 where anyone affected could go to stay cool and get help if needed.
Traffic on Gentry Parkway returned to normal just after 6 p.m Tuesday as the evacuation was lifted.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Sgt. Darrel Coslin with the Smith County Sheriff's Office said tanks containing welding gas ignited and exploded.
Crews allowed the fire to burn itself out due to the hazardous materials and threat of explosion involved. The tanks continued smoldering late Tuesday.
Melvin Ruyle, owner of Tyler Welders Supply, tells CBS19 several trailers sustained the most damage, and three employee vehicles were destroyed. He said the business' main building saw minimal damage.
Sheriff Larry Smith released drone footage of the fire. The drones went up periodically Tuesday afternoon, allowing firefighters to monitor conditions from afar.
Tyler Welders Supply employs about 40 people, and all were safely evacuated despite the large amount of shrapnel reportedly flying through the air.
"They left their cell phones and everything because they had to get out right away," Ruyle said.
Tyler Welders Supply opened in 1974, and Ruyle opened the settling plant four years ago. The business delivers products to customers in Dallas, Houston, and Louisiana, among others.
Ruyle was a partner in a similar plant in Dallas that he said was destroyed by fire.
Though Ruyle estimated damage could total nearly $1-million, he said, "we're going to be alright."
He said another vendor will serve Tyler Welders Supply clients until the company resumes normal operations.
A unit from the Winona Fire Department planned to monitor the scene overnight Tuesday.
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