Six-alarm fire sends smoke, flames billowing from Sarasota warehouse

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Sarasota County firefighters spent Friday morning trying to get control of a massive warehouse fire. The flames were out by early afternoon, but crews stayed busy through the evening, putting out hotspots. 

The six-alarm blaze started just before 5 a.m. at Packinghouse Road and Palmer Boulevard, next to JR's Old Packinghouse Café. The warehouse was completely destroyed.

"All of our construction equipment, $20,000 to $30,000 worth of construction equipment is gone," business owner Jeff Couch explained.

At last count, officials said 80 firefighters worked to prevent the flames from spreading to other nearby businesses. Sarasota County buses were used to help crews with their shift change.

The wall of heat from the fire, the scorching Florida sun, and high humidity made it a tough battle for firefighters.

Chief Mike Regnier with Sarasota County Fire Rescue told FOX 13 crews worked hard to knock back the fire, but had to work to stay cool and hydrated as well.

"We had air conditioning, water, drinks, and something to eat so they could rest," Regnier said.

Families living in a series of apartments behind the building have been evacuated.

"When the blinds started melting inside the apartment, we knew it was getting bad," a resident at the apartment complex said.

Florida Highway Patrol issued a travel advisory for drivers on Interstate 75 out of concerns that smoke from the fire would cause issues for drivers. 

Firefighters were not sure what started the fire. State and federal fire investigators were on scene, trying to determine the cause.

No injuries were reported.