UPDATE 12:45 pm: Wells Fargo has decided to close the campus for the rest of the day following this morning’s fire. The company says approximately 7,000 people work in the complex of 4 buildings. The company is sending employees automated messages to tell them about their work schedules in the coming days.
The company also says “customers should not experience any service impact as a result of this incident. Customer services will be handled by several other sites across the country.”
A fire at sprawling business campus in West Des Moines this morning left thousands of workers waiting outside for firefighters to put out the flames.
West Des Moines fire marshal Mike Whitsell says they got an alarm around 5 A.M. at the Wells Fargo campus. They were met by security guards who told them thick black smoke was coming from the second floor.
“We immediately upgrade this to a larger incident, had a lot more fire trucks coming this way,” according to Whitsell. “We spent then about two hours chasing fire in the walls that was jumping from the second to the third all the way from the third to the fourth floor.” There were employees in the building at the time who got out safely. Whitsell says the fire burned for a couple of hours before they got it under control. Smoke from the fire caused a lot of problems.
“A tremendous amount of smoke filled a large portion of this campus. This was happening right when the new shifts were coming in for the day, so we literally had thousands of workers who were showing up for work here and we had to keep them outside and not let them in the building,” Whitsell says. Neighboring fire departments in Clive, Waukee, Urbandale and Johnston sent help.
Whitsell says the size of the buildings made it difficult to work in as spreading smoke was a big problem.”This campus is almost a million square feet of space. There are multiple buildings…that are connected with different connectors and walkways. Each one of those buildings has smoke and fire doors, but as people were going out of the building some of those doors were left open, propped open, so we had smoke jumping form areas to areas,” Whitsell says. He says they had to turn off the air conditioning and ventilation systems to keep from spreading smoke, and that made conditions tough for firefighters inside.
The campus is in the Jordan Creek area of West Des Moines near the Jordan Creek Mall. He says the campus is like a high-rise building laying on its side four levels, and so the crews going through pulling hoses through and using fans had to be cycled in and out for rest. Whitsell says the buildings that were not directly hit by the fire should be reopened by this afternoon, but his crews have a full day ahead.
Whitsell says they’ve let most of the neighboring crews who came to help go home, but they will be there the rest of the afternoon cleaning up and doing the investigation to determine what started the fire. Whitsell says there were no injuries among any of the employees or the firefighters who put out the fire.