(July 9, 11:29 a.m.) A fire fueled by ethylene gas used to ripen tomatoes heavily damaged the Gonzales Packing Co. Inc., facility in Gonzales, Calif.

Lelo Romero, dock supervisor, was changing out ethylene gas at one of the generators in the cooling facility at 7:30 a.m., July 8, when a spark ignited the gas, according to The (Salinas) Californian newspaper.

“The gas is used to ripen tomatoes,” Romero said in the article. “There were 2 gallons in the generator, but the whole building was full of it.”

By the time Romero was able to retrieve a fire extinguisher, he said, the fire was too large to contain. The fire department responded within 15 minutes, but the blaze was not contained until 2:30 p.m. Gonzales Police Department Sgt. Frederick Lombardi told The Californian that some of the company’s equipment was still intact, but the facility was still closed.

Tim Horwath, owner, said he is evaluating the damage.

“The big part of this is that a lot of people lost their jobs,” he said in the article. “This is a cooling facility and it was full of tomatoes.”

Horwath said the company employs 75-80 people.

The facility has the capacity to handle 30,000 boxes of tomatoes a day and averages 2 million boxes annually, according to the company’s Web site.

Officials at the company were meeting with insurance adjusters July 9, and were too busy to comment.