Orange County investigating if explosives are being stored near homes

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Following the deadly fire at a warehouse made worse by explosives stored on-site, an Orange County leader said staff are investigating whether fireworks or other explosives are being stored near people’s homes.


The fire, which broke out on Dec. 1, killed four workers. Dozens of first responders arrived to see fireworks going off and people trapped inside.

Only one person survived with burns to 60% of their body.

Commissioner Mayra Uribe said the county did not know fireworks were being stored on-site. She said staff inspected the property in 2020 and only found furniture.

READ: 4th person dies after last week’s fire at Orange County warehouse used to store fireworks

She said multiple investigations are underway. First, to determine if the business was even allowed to store explosives, and second, assembling a list of other storage locations across the county.

“I’m not insinuating that every warehouse is having [the ability to store fireworks],” she said. “We don’t know who has it and clearly we did not know this warehouse even had it.”

Orange County code only allows one type of property to store explosives in bulk: heavy industrial, also known as I-4 zoning. It’s one of the most restricted categories on the books.

Photos: 5 hurt after massive fire breaks out at warehouse storing fireworks in Orange County, fighters say

Uribe’s chief concern was the possibility that one of these facilities is located next to people’s homes. It has been decades since heavy industrial property was allowed to be built close to residential properties without a 50-foot buffer. Staff members are working to figure out if any older facilities were grandfathered in, she said.

She was also concerned about places storing fireworks illegally.

“We don’t know what’s been stored in those warehouses, and had this location been next to a residential area where we know there is industrial usage now, it could have taken out an entire block,” she fretted.

READ: Deadly car crash into West Melbourne fireworks shop still under investigation

Uribe said the next step was to reduce the risk to properties across the county. For those storing fireworks or explosives legally, she said their ability could not be taken away, but the county could tighten regulations and reporting requirements.

A separate solution would have to be found to tackle illegal storage units, ensuring any business breaking the law would be easily caught.

“I don’t know what the legal implications are there, and that’s what we have to get through,” she explained. “I just don’t want to take two, three years doing that.”

READ: Investigators work to determine cause of crash that led to fireworks store fire

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