Firefighters in Dunkirk, NY, faced numerous challenges — among them, insufficient manpower on the initial alarm, a municipal water system that could not meet the incident's flow demands, overtaxed communications, heavy snow and rapidly forming ice — when they responded to a downtown...
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Westfield Ladder 291 was positioned on the D side and set up for aerial master stream operations. This unit was supplied by a 400-foot, four-inch line from Sheridan Engine 161, which hooked onto a hydrant north of the fire scene across the railroad tracks on Central Avenue. This hydrant was capable of supplying between 500 and 1,000 gpm. West Dunkirk Engine 122 laid 800 feet of five-inch supply line from Dunkirk Engine 4 to a hydrant at the intersection of West Fourth Street and Washington Avenue. Engine 122 hooked onto the hydrant with a 20-foot, six-inch supply line and pumped to Engine 4. This hydrant was capable of flowing between 1,500 and 2,000 gpm. West Dunkirk Engine 123 hooked onto a hydrant at the corner of West Third Street and Central Avenue with a 20-foot, six-inch supply line and supplied Dunkirk Engine 3 with a 200-foot, five-inch line. This hydrant was capable of flowing between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm.
Dunkirk Engine 2 was repositioned to a hydrant at the corner of West Fourth Street and Central Avenue and supplied Ladder 1 with a 200-foot, five-inch line. This hydrant was capable of flowing 1,000 to 1,500 gpm. Westfield Engine 293 laid 600 feet of five-inch supply line from a hydrant at the intersection of West Fourth and Eagle streets to a position along the B side of the B-exposure building. Engine 293 placed its deck gun and a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line into operation. Westfield Engine 292 was placed in staging.
At 7:11, Loeb requested an additional aerial ladder from the Mayville Volunteer Fire Department, 26 miles away. Ladder 251, a 109-foot aerial with a 2,000-gpm pump, responded with 10 firefighters. At 7:16, the Brocton Volunteer Fire Department was asked to send an engine to the scene. Engine 202, a 1,500-gpm pumper, responded with 14 firefighters. The Cassadaga Volunteer Fire Department was called to send an engine to the scene at 7:17. Engine 101, a 2,000-gpm pumper, responded with 14 firefighters.
At 7:21, the Silver Creek Volunteer Fire Department was requested to send two engines to the scene. Engine 171, a 1,000-gpm pumper, and Engine 172, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded with 12 firefighters. At 7:37, the Forrestville Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engine 131, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and 12 firefighters. At 7:39, the Irving Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engine 141, a 1,500-gpm pumper, with five firefighters. Fredonia Truck 18 was set up for aerial master stream operations and was supplied with a 100-foot, five-inch line from West Dunkirk Engine 123.
At 7:17 P.M., the first of several structural collapses occurred. The four-story wall on the B side of the fire building collapsed into the B-exposure building. This caused the roof and the C-side second-floor wall of the B exposure to collapse. Fire erupted on the second-floor C side of the building and was extinguished by crews from the exterior. Firefighters had been operating handlines off of the B exposure roof but had been evacuated by command 16 minutes prior to the collapse. Two other collapses occurred in the fire building, but did not cause any further damage to either exposure.
Incident commanders determined that the municipal water system could not handle the demand for firefighting operations that was needed at approximately 7:45 P.M. The municipal system could provide approximately 6,000 gpm, but could not provide the additional needed flow. It was decided to draft out of Lake Erie three blocks to the north of the fire on Central Avenue. Silver Creek Engine 172 laid 600 feet of five-inch line from Mayville Ladder 251 north on Central Avenue. Brocton Engine 261 continued laying 900 feet of four-inch line from Silver Creek Engine 172. Cassadaga Engine 131 laid 1,000 feet of five-inch line from Brocton Engine 261 to Lake Erie. Engine 131 established draft. This water supply was established at 8:30 P.M.
Silver Creek Engine 171 was positioned at the intersection of West Fourth and Eagle streets and laid a 600-foot, four-inch supply line from a hydrant located at the intersection of West Fourth and Swan streets at 9 P.M. This hydrant was capable of supplying between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm. An additional 200-foot, five-inch line was hand laid from Engine 171 to a position on Lark Street. A manifold was placed on the end of the five-inch line. Two 100-foot, 2½-inch supply lines were laid to a portable monitor on side C. This monitor was used on the C side of the B exposure.
More Water Supply
At 11:45 P.M., incident commanders decided that another water supply from Lake Erie was needed to further reduce the demand on the municipal water system and let it replenish itself for normal operations the following day. Forrestville Engine 131 laid 600 feet of five-inch line from Sheridan Engine 161, which was positioned on Central Avenue, north of Third Street. West Dunkirk Engine 123 laid 600 feet of five-inch line from Forrestville Engine 131 to the Central Avenue Boat Ramp on Lake Erie and established draft. This relay was established at 1 A.M. on Thursday.