Eighty-four firefighters from 13 departments in three counties responded to a four-alarm fire that destroyed a warehouse under renovation in downtown Wenatchee, WA, on Saturday, June 20, 2009. Workers in another building reported hearing an explosion and saw flames and heavy smoke on the roof of...
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Eighty-four firefighters from 13 departments in three counties responded to a four-alarm fire that destroyed a warehouse under renovation in downtown Wenatchee, WA, on Saturday, June 20, 2009. Workers in another building reported hearing an explosion and saw flames and heavy smoke on the roof of the warehouse. During the incident, challenges involving fuel for apparatus, depleted manpower and fireground safety provided lessons for incident managers.
The Hamilton Warehouse building, built in 1917, was a former cold storage warehouse with a brick exterior lined with clay-type tiles. The interior floors were posted-up heavy beams, with the beams often measuring 12 by 20 inches or more, in a type of platform construction independent of the walls. The floors on the northern two-thirds of the building were two-by-sixes nailed flat-side together for a six-inch-thick solid floor covered in many areas with quarter-inch, four-by-eight-foot sheets of steel due to forklift wear. The southern third was formerly office space and the floors were of lighter construction. The walls and separations were insulated with one foot of wood shavings, reportedly cypress shavings to resist rot. The roof was a flat, built-up roof.
The building was purchased from Stemilt Growers in September 2008 by the Hamilton Investment Group. This warehouse was similar to the Go USA building adjacent to the warehouse with a common wall on the north side of the fire building. The Go USA building was renovated beginning in 2000 by the Hamilton Investment Group and is about three-quarters occupied. The Hamilton Investment Group was in the process of a similar project at the former Stemilt warehouse. The Hamilton Warehouse consisted of 100,000 square feet with a full basement, first floor and second floor consisting of 30,000 square feet each and a 10,000-square-foot third floor on the northern end of the building.
Because of the renovations, temporary electricity was supplied through a hole in the common wall between buildings. The gas had been shut off to the building. Demolition contractors were in the building the week prior to the fire performing clean-up work in preparation for the necessary upgrades to convert the space to mixed office and commercial space. There were no fire detection or protection systems in the building at the time of the fire.
The Wenatchee Fire & Rescue Department was dispatched to a reported commercial fire at the Hamilton Warehouse at 524 South Columbia St. at 5:52 A.M. The fire was first reported by two employees working in the Building Supply Outlet, a large block building across the alley to the west of the Go USA building. The employees reported hearing an explosion and rushed outside to the alley to investigate. Heavy smoke and flames were reported from the roof at the old Stemilt Warehouse building south of the Go USA building.
Wenatchee Fire & Rescue Engine 41, a 1,250-gpm pumper with a crew of three; Ladder 42, a 100-foot quint aerial with a 1,250-gpm pump and three firefighters; and Command 40 with Battalion Chief Mitch Barnes responded. Automatic mutual aid from Douglas County Fire District 2 was also dispatched. Engine 221 a 1,500-gpm pumper with a three-person crew, and Command 22 with Assistant Chief Doug Miller responded.
Upon arrival, Barnes reported a fully involved structure fire and determined that all operations would be defensive. Barnes established Columbia Street Command and identified side A as Columbia Street. Command was on Spokane Street. Fire was showing on side C from the roof and the alley at ground level. The building was not occupied and there were no life-safety issues.