On The Job: Pennsylvania

On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, a four-alarm fire destroyed a 50-year-old bowling center in downtown Strasburg in Lancaster County, PA. The 180-by-200-foot, block building with a builtup flat roof was constructed in 1961. Later, in the mid-1970s, the flat...


On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, a four-alarm fire destroyed a 50-year-old bowling center in downtown Strasburg in Lancaster County, PA. The 180-by-200-foot, block building with a builtup flat roof was constructed in 1961. Later, in the mid-1970s, the flat roof, which was left in place, was covered with a...


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At 9:32, a special request was made for a task force of 10 tankers. Responding tankers included Refton Fire Company Tanker 5-9, West Willow Fire Company Tanker, Intercourse Fire Company Tanker 4-4, Bart Township Tanker 5-1-1 and Tanker 5-1-2, Witmer Fire Company Engine 4-10-2 and Tanker 4-10 and Kinzer Fire Company Tanker 4-5. Also making up the task force were Strasburg Tanker 5-10 and Bird-in-Hand Tanker 4-1, which responded on the initial alarm. The tankers were assigned to the south side of the fire.

Wentz requested a third alarm at 9:55 P.M. Gap Fire Company Truck 4-2 (a 100-foot aerial), Quarryville Fire Company Truck 5-7 (a 95-foot aerial), and White Horse Fire Company Tanker 4-9, New Danville Fire Company Tanker 5-5, Rawlinsville Fire Company Tanker 5-8 and Christiana Fire Company Tanker 5-2-1 responded with 22 firefighters. Gap Truck 4-2 was positioned at the B/C corner and set up for aerial master stream operations.

Command made several requests for additional apparatus and manpower. Seventy-three firefighters responded with Gordonville Fire and Ambulance Association Engine 4-3-1 and Hose 4-3, Bart Township Engine 5-1-1, Lampeter Engine 5-4-3, Witmer Engine 4-10-2, Lafayette Engines 6-3-1, 6-3-2 and 6-3-3, Refton Engine 5-9-1, Willow Street Fire Company Engine 5-12-2, Quarryville Engine 5-7-2, Ronks Engine 4-10-1, Cochranville Fire Company from Chester County Engine/Tanker 27-5, Kinzer Engine 4-5-2 and Conestoga Fire Company Engine 5-3-2. Multiple other departments provided standby coverage.

A tanker shuttle was established on the south side of the fire at 9:59 P.M. Two 1,600-foot, five-inch lines were laid from the Square of Strasburg Borough (the intersection of North Decatur and East Main streets) to the fire scene. One supply line was laid by Refton Engine 5-9-1 and completed by Gordonville Hose 4-3. The second line was laid by Kinzer Engine 4-5-2 and completed by Gordonville Hose 4-3. One line supplied Lampeter Engine 5-4-1 and the second line supplied Lampeter Engine 5-4-2, both operating on exposure operations. Two 3,000-gallon portable tanks were placed at the dump site. Gordonville Tanker 4-3 was set up for drafting at the dump site and supplied Lampeter Engines 5-4-1 and 5-4-2. Eleven tankers were assigned to this operation with a fill site established at the borough pond a half-mile from the Square. Willow Street Engine 5-12-2 and Kinzer Engine 4-5-2 established drafting operations at the fill site. At 10:12, commanders determined additional water would be needed to support firefighting operations. This required the establishment of a fill site, dump site and tanker shuttle on the north side of the fire.

Bird-in-Hand Tanker 4-1 laid 600 feet of five-inch line north from the fire scene to Route 896 and Historic Drive. Two 3,000-gallon portable tanks were set up at the dump site. Gordonville Hose 4-3 set up for drafting at the dump site and fed Lafayette Engine 6-3-2, which supplied Gap Truck 4-2 with a 200-foot, five-inch line. Witmer Engine 4-10-1 and Conestoga Engine 5-3-2 established drafting operations at the fill site on Route 896 at the Conestoga River, a mile north of the dump site. Thirteen tankers were requested for this operation: Intercourse Tanker 4-4, Witmer Tanker 4-10, Kinzer Tanker 4-5, White Horse Tanker 4-9, New Danville Tanker 5-5, Neffsville Fire Company Tanker 207, Manheim Fire Company Tanker 2-6, Penryn Fire Company Tanker 2-8, Blue Ball Fire Company Tanker 3-2, Cochranville Fire Company Engine/Tanker 27-5, East Hempfield Township Fire Company Tanker 7-19 and Blue Rock Fire Rescue Tanker 907 and Tanker 903. The operation required a continuous flow of 4,500 gpm.

Wentz declared the fire under control at 11:41 P.M. Strasburg Truck 5-10 was the last unit to leave the scene at 3:08 A.M. on May 5. The department was recalled to the scene three times on May 5 to extinguish flare-ups in the rubble. Investigators determined the damage was too extensive to identify a specific cause.

Problems

Problems encountered included:

Delayed notification of the fire to the fire department. During interviews, employees of the business reported smelling smoke an hour before they saw smoke coming from the HVAC vents.

Water supply. The municipal water system was quickly overtaxed by the use of master streams. The hydrants used for water supply were on an eight-inch main.