On The Job California: Seven Alarms At Plastics Plant

On Tuesday, July 26, 2011, a seven-alarm fire in the storage area of a plastics factory in Fairfield, CA, required the resources of 12 fire departments. The fire was caused by workers using a blow torch on polypropylene scrap and grew rapidly due to the...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Two additional ladder trucks were requested at 1:51 P.M. Vacaville Truck 71, a 100-foot aerial, and Suisun City Truck 47, a 100-foot front-mount bucket, responded. Vacaville Truck 71 laid a 400-foot, 4½-inch line from Huntington Drive to the rear of the manufacturing plant and was set up for aerial master-stream operations. Suisun City Truck 47 was staged.

Command requested a fourth alarm at 2:16 P.M. Dixon Fire Department Engine 81, Travis Air Force Base Engine 45 and Vacaville Fire Protection District Engine 64 responded. Dixon Engine 81 laid a 400-foot, 4½-inch line from a hydrant in the parking lot of a Michelin tire warehouse to the B side of the incident. A portable monitor supplied by a 300-foot, three-inch line was positioned on side B, supplied by Engine 81. Vacaville Fire Protection District Engine 64 was staged.

Fifth and sixth alarms were requested at 2:37 P.M. Benicia Fire Department Engine 12, Vallejo Fire Department Engine 25, Travis Air Force Base Crash 46, Suisun Fire Protection District Engine 32, Dixon Engine 281 and Cordelia Fire Protection District Engine 29 responded.

Command declared the fire under control at 6:20 P.M. and mutual aid units began being released. Fairfield Engine 39 and crew remained on scene for a fire watch. At 12:01 A.M. on Wednesday, July 27, the scene was turned back to plant management.

Seven alarms were requested for assistance under Solano County Mutual Aid Agreements. More than 50 firefighters and staff responded. AFFF foam was used initially by Crash 9, but was abandoned due to the size of fuel load involved. It was not a practical application for this fire. Weather at the time of the fire was clear, temperature of 86 degrees, light winds out of the southwest and relative humidity of 55%. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

 

Investigation

A two-day investigation was conducted by the Fairfield Fire Department and insurance company investigators. It was determined that the fire was caused by inattention by workers using a blow torch to remove plastic scrap from the bins left from the manufacturing process. This work was done by a contract company. During this process, one bin caught fire and the fire grew rapidly due to the flammable nature of the polypropylene.

The close proximity of additional bins stacked high and the large fire load made a sustained attack difficult and resulted in firefighters relocating from initial positions due to extreme radiant heat and increasing fire conditions. The inventory in the storage yard was between 15,000 and 20,000 plastic bins valued at $250 each. Damage was estimated at $4.5 million. n