On The Job: Montana

On June 11, 2009, a three-alarm fire destroyed a five-story warehouse in Butte, MT. The 45-by-100-foot structure was built in 1902 of Type IV heavy timber construction by Armour and Co. and originally was used as a meat warehouse, although it had many...


On June 11, 2009, a three-alarm fire destroyed a five-story warehouse in Butte, MT. The 45-by-100-foot structure was built in 1902 of Type IV heavy timber construction by Armour and Co. and originally was used as a meat warehouse, although it had many uses over its 107-year history, most recently to...


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On June 11, 2009, a three-alarm fire destroyed a five-story warehouse in Butte, MT. The 45-by-100-foot structure was built in 1902 of Type IV heavy timber construction by Armour and Co. and originally was used as a meat warehouse, although it had many uses over its 107-year history, most recently to store tires. Three stories were above ground and two were below ground. The building, with a flat, built-up tar roof, was one of seven brick warehouses along a two-block section of Butte's historic "Warehouse District" on Iron Street. There were no fire detection or suppression systems in the building.

The Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department was dispatched at 3:18 A.M. to a structure fire at the Whalen Tire Distribution Warehouse, 749 South Utah Ave. Engines 1 and 5, both 1,500-gpm pumpers, and Ladder 1, a 100-foot tower ladder with a 2,000-gpm pump, responded with six firefighters under the command of Senior Captain/Shift Commander Malcolm Gustafson. Engine 1 laid a 200-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Wyoming and Iron streets to the B/C corner of the building. Ladder 1 laid a 200-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Utah and Iron streets to the B side. Engine 5 was positioned at the A/B corner. There were no civilian life-safety issues as the business was closed at the time.

Initial Operations

Firefighters found fire on the main floor of the building in the center and west end. The fire was already extending to the second and third floors via a stairwell and a freight elevator shaft. Crews stretched a 150-foot, 1¾-inch attack line from Engine 1 into the interior first floor for a limited interior attack. A large amount of fire was venting from a window on side C and a 1¾-inch attack line from Engine 5 was used to knock it down. A 150-foot, 2½-inch pre-connect with a 500-gpm portable monitor was deployed on side A from Ladder 1. The interior crew operated inside the building for eight minutes before withdrawing due to heavy fire.

Firefighters initiated defensive operations at 3:30 A.M. Ladder 1 placed two 1,000-gpm aerial master streams into operation on side B. Engine 1 placed its 1,000-gpm deck gun into operation on side B. Engine 5 was repositioned to the alleyway at the C/D corner, laying a 400-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Aluminum and Wyoming streets. This engine placed two 2½-inch lines into operation. One line supplied a 500-gpm portable monitor on side B and the other was positioned on side C in the alleyway.

To Protect Exposures

A three-story vacant refrigeration warehouse was attached to side C by an enclosed walkway on the second floor extending over a 15-foot alleyway that separates the two buildings. Firefighters prevented the fire from extending to this structure. One crew of two members was assigned to enter the C exposure and check for any fire extension via the attached walkway. Exposure D was a three-story ordinary-construction commercial property measuring 20 by 100 feet. This building was attached by a one-story, masonry-block loading dock. Firefighters made a trench cut in the roof midway between the two buildings. The trench cut was performed from side A to side C and was two feet wide and 30 feet long. A five-man crew operated on the roof with a chainsaw and a 1¾-inch attack line for protection. This operation was successful in stopping the horizontal fire spread to the occupied exposure.

Gustafson requested mutual aid at 3:39. The Boulevard Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engine 6, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and 11 firefighters. The Race Track Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engine 77, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Squad 77, a mini-attack pumper with 12 firefighters. Boulevard Engine 6 laid a 400-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Wyoming and Third streets and pumped to Ladder 1. This engine also supplied handlines on side B. Race Track units were assigned to assist with the trench-cut operations.

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