The fire began due to pressurization of fluid leaking from a hydraulic line. The leak, in combination with heat, caused immediate vapor and flames. This ignition transpired into heavy smoke making it a serious hazard very quickly. When workers attempted to escape they realized that the designated fire escapes were blocked and the doors were locked. It was common for the doors to the facility to be locked during working hours, but this often made the workers uncomfortable.
Upon further research, it was discovered that Imperial Foods had been in business 11 years without a proper inspection. The federal government was blamed at first for not enforcing the building codes and standards.