Dispatched: About 11PM December 19th, 1996
Thanks again to Rifton FD, Bloomington FD, Esopus FD on standby, and the St Remy Ladies Auxiliary for the refreshments.
The intial call was received at about 11PM and I immediately grabbed my spare turnout gear and headed toward the scene. Radio contact with county dispatch confirmed a structure fire and suggested that there might be people trapped. Passing station one, I was relieved to see that a senior driver already had the engine rolling.
As I came around a bend on a hilltop overlooking the scene from across the lake, I saw a multiple bay home garage with flames four feet thick and fifteen feet high rolling from its open front. That side of the garage was approximately fourty feet from a house. There is a dry hydrant on the lake and I immediately called for a tanker from Rifton FD to the scene (for temporary water) and an engine from Bloomington FD to set up a relay base at the hydrant. My second call was for Engine 5210 to lay in down the side street and Engine 5220 to lay from the hydrant to the first hose lay. As I approached the scene, I realized that we needed to hit this fire hard and fast. Neighbors were shouting that they thought the owner might be in the burning building. I adjusted the orders to have engine 5210 come directly to the scene and pull two 1-3/4" hand lines, with engine 5220 to create the entire hose lay (which I estimated its 2000 feet would just cover).
As I was gearing up, engine 5210 arrived with an experienced pump operator but no nozzle men. They were still a minute or so away. The PO and I pulled the front mattydale and I advanced it to the left side of the structure. The heaviest flame and heat were in the center, advancing rapidly toward the left. The left hand bay and pickup truck were already involved. I began the attack at 150GPM which was about all I could safely maneuver back and forth. Just as I realized that this line was not going to stop the fire, Lieutenant Bickert arrived at my shoulder saying "I'll back you up, Karl!". This was good news. I instructed the pump operator to increase the flow to 200 GPM. Shortly thereafter, firefighters Landi and (soon to be lieutenant) Beever brought the second line to the center doorway. (The overhead doors were gone.) We were now flowing 400 gallons per minute and had stopped the growth of the fire. Progress toward extinguishment was very slow. Too slow, in fact, for this magnitude of fire.
It was at this point that we realized there was gasoline running onto the floor from the fuel tank of the lincoln and possibly from storage tanks. When a Rifton nozzleman came to assist, I gave the nozzle to the lieutenant and, seeing Car 52 at the command post, took my place as operations officer, directing the two hose teams, and setting up backup lines, a foam system, lighting, etc.
I never really noticed the loss of water. It seemed to last for no more than fifteen seconds as the engine's 1500 gallon booster tank ran out, and the supply people finished hooking in the first tanker. The relay was fully operational before that tanker was empty.
We found the homeowner in the house and very worried about his tractor. He wanted to drive it out of the lean-to end at the right of the garage. Our hose teams protected the exposures and the tractor was never touched by flame or debris. Even the smoke knew better than to blow that way.
The garage is repairable, but needs extensive work. The back wall is half gone, the doors are gone, and the two upper gable ends suffered damage. The roof beams were charred but only two burned through more than half way. The roof itself is fully intact and still keeps the rain out. The lean-to addition suffered no real damage. A tree half way between the garage and the house was seriously damaged on the fire side, and the circuit breakers protected the electrical service when the 60 ampere feed to the garage shorted out. Jon covered the rest of the story very well.
There is one other interesting bit of information here. Two hours after extinguishment of the flames, we still saw smoke steadily issuing from the gable ends. After some careful searching, we found that the plastic bed liner in the truck was creating this smoke. We dragged it outside, and even though there was an inch of water in one end of the truck's bed, the other end was completely dry and warm. Would this bed liner have reignited? We really don't know, but the smoke is unhealthy and we never take anything for granted.
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Written by Lieutenant Jon Beever
You can E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (No Longer working)