A fire in a storage complex destroyed thousands of tons of government surplus butter and cheese and other food and forced the evacuation of 3,000 people, authorities said Saturday.

Residents were evacuated from their homes within a half-mile radius of the fire starting just before midnight after the blaze threatened a third building that contained explosive chemicals, Fire Department spokesman Tom Olshanski said.But Olshanski said that the blaze caused only some minor exterior and interior damage to the building before the spread was stopped. Most people were allowed to return to their homes about 5 a.m.