On Friday, May 7, 2010, a “once-in-a-career fire” destroyed a vacant, 87-year-old furniture factory, a 99-year-old vacant warehouse and an occupied manufacturing plant and offices in downtown Salamanca, NY. Investigators determined the fire was deliberately set and six juveniles were...
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The fire was declared under control at 3 A.M. on Saturday, May 8. A severe thunderstorm passed through the area early that morning, forcing firefighters to scale back operations until the storm passed. The last Salamanca unit left the scene at 3 P.M. on Wednesday, May 12.
More than 200 career and volunteer firefighters battled the fire using aerial master streams, deck guns and numerous handlines. Four firefighters suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The two adjacent businesses, Salamanca Lumber and McHone Industries, were also damaged by the fire.
Arson Suspects Charged
An investigation by the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Cattaraugus County Fire Investigation Team, Salamanca Fire Department Investigation Team and Salamanca Police Department determined the fire was the result of arson. Six juveniles between the ages of 12 and 15 were arrested. Each one was charged with fourth-degree arson, first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree burglary and third-degree assault. Damage was estimated at more than $3 million.
• Successes – The vacant buildings had been pre-planned several times and the fire department was aware that the sprinkler systems were not operational. This was factored into how the fire was fought. Firefighters used tabletop drills, flow tests, and on-scene ladder and defensive drills in pre-planning. No one was seriously injured despite the large-scale firefighting operations.
• Problems – Firefighters were faced with several problems fighting this fire. The vacant building was unmonitored and provided the location for vandals to start the fire and allowed the fire to grow unnoticed. The inoperable sprinkler system let the fire spread rapidly, necessitating defensive firefighting operations. The municipal water supply in the area was limited due to small water mains. A supply line from the river and tanker-shuttle operations were needed to provide an adequate water supply to fight the fire. Winds pushed the fire through the buildings and spread burning embers that ignited small grass fires that needed to be contended with.