"He may have turned on the electricity to the area we believe where the
fire originated," said Costa Mesa Fire Marshal Tom Macdouss. "However, it
was an accidental fire."
The fire nearly leveled Newport Plastics Inc. on Airport Loop early
Thursday morning. Dark plumes of smoke rose into the sky near John Wayne
Airport as firefighters battled the blaze for 90 minutes. No one was
injured. A dog named Cheetos, who belonged to the owner of the building,
died in the fire.
As the smoke billowed Thursday, some onlookers and company employees were
fearful of the toxic fumes they were inhaling. Health officials tested
the area and didn't find any high levels of toxics that were a concern.
Macdouss said the fire appears to have started in a large storage area
that holds the company's raw and finished products along with some
manufacturing equipment. Investigators believe an electrical outlet may
have short-circuited and caused the fire.
Initial damage estimates may exceed $2.5 million because it is unknown
whether some of the expensive equipment inside the building will be
"I wouldn't attempt to put a number on that loss," Macdouss said. "There
are a lot of plastic molds that are very expensive that could be used at
a later time."
Investigators have spent the past three days sifting through the remains.
The job was hampered further by the plastics that first melted under
extreme heat and then hardened after it cooled.
Although some neighbors complained about the company's housekeeping, fire
officials said Newport Plastics had passed previous inspections with
"They are pretty clean every time we check them out," Macdouss added. "We
do an inspection at least once a year, and we haven't found any