Perfect media storm: What if a fire broke out at an abandoned Escondido meat market and social media, TV news went wild?

Michael Milner posted this on Instagram with the observation: "I swear the vegetarians had nothing to do with it."

Nothing like fire to spark interest in the “mainstream media” — it’s the easiest and most colorful spectacle to trot across local TV — and social media. Throw in spectacular smoke, large numbers of responders and close proximity to freeways and morning rush hour traffic and voila’, the perfect 2016 media storm.

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.)

It’s an easy story and no doubt interesting although not on the level of Brexit or Donald Trump.

However, it was a story all Escondido’s own and owning it, social media and local TV stations went bat-sh** wild Thursday morning with feeds and reports rendering the abandoned Talone Meat Market — a historic Escondido business by the way — the biggest news in the local world, Ground Zero for a social media and TV news apocalypse.

Here’s the scoop :

Just before 9 a.m. Thursday, June 30, what became a four-alarm fire broke out at the site of the old Talone Meat Market,  559 N Hale Ave., within clear sight of the Interstate 15-Highway 78 interchange.

Authorities believe four transients were inside the building when fire broke out. Two escaped and two were unaccounted for as of 1 p.m., according to Jeff Murdock, Escondido fire emergency management coordinator.

One of the transients who left the building during the fire storm, identified by NBC7 San Diego News as Larry Julien, said a group of homeless people had been living at the abandoned meat market.

“We did have initial reports when we arrived that there may be four people trapped inside,” Murdock said to NBC7. “Those are unconfirmed reports.”

At 3 p.m. Thursday, Escondido police said officials were “optimistic that several trespassers who were feared to have been trapped in the building managed to escape, based on reported sightings of them. Fire officials will conduct a search on Friday to confirm that no other persons were in the building. Until the structural integrity of the building is assured and the remaining hot spots are extinguished, no one will be permitted to enter the building.”

Around 100 firefighters, and at least seven engine companies, from across North County responded to the fire at the 10,000-square-foot building that sat on a two-acre property.

Newly installed Escondido fire chief Russ Knowles said part of the building’s roof caved in, adding that the building’s “odd layout” also caused challenges in fighting the blaze. He termed the fight “a slow, tedious operation.”

Firefighters fought the flames that were so dangerous from exterior positions, drenching the flames with thousands of gallons of water, according to Murdock. Engine companies from Carlsbad, Deer Springs, Oceanside, San Diego, San Marcos, Valley Center and Vista assisted Escondido firefighters at the scene, officials said. Flames were extinguished shortly before noon, officials said.

Northwest portions of Escondido’s industrial district were closed to traffic. Closures included Metcalf Street, Hale Avenue, Washington at Mission avenues and Tulip Street. An I-15 on-ramp in the vicinity also was shut down. Traffic was allowed to resume around 3:30 p.m., Escondido officials said.

Power was cut off in the area. Sprinter service was stopped at the nearby Escondido Transit Center and Nordahl Sprinter station. Those services have been restored, officials said.

2006 scene at Talone Meat Market. The 80-year-old business shut down in 2008.

2006 scene at Talone Meat Market. The 80-year-old business shut down in 2008.

The sprawling Talone Meat Market, once known as Talone Packing Co., was the last standing slaughterhouse in North County. Italian brothers Henry and Mario Talone opened it during the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.

Well-known Escondido-San Marcos dairyman and business leader Arie de Jong bought the business in 2001. He shut it down in 2008.

Historical authorities said the facility was not of historical importance and it fell into disrepair and disrepute. Escondido officials, for a while, spoke about maybe putting a historical plaque at the scene, but that talk went nowhere. Meanwhile, transients occupied the space.

Social media storm

What made this fire and its aftermath most memorable, as of now pending reports of possible transient deaths or injuries, was the social media and TV news storm it generated.

Dozens of people captured real-time videos and photos, posting them en masse on social media sites ranging from Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and Instagram to the more exotic social media bundler Banjo. Even the likes of Patch woke up from it’s long local media slumber to copy the Banjo feed and re-appear like a Phoenix above the flames.

TV station news crews and helicopters descended on the scene filing breathless reports and constantly updated “breaking news” updates, each punctuated by breathless anchors ant reporters filing the latest “scoop.”

Meantime, social media was able with first-hand looks at the smoke and even flames.

Posted below is a partial look at the Banjo feed:

Large Fire Breaks Out At Market In Escondido, CA

Escondido, CA

Escondido, CA6/30/2016


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