On The Job: PENNSYLVANIA

On July 8, 2009, a six-alarm fire destroyed an entire block of row-houses in York, PA. The incident required a large mutual aid response because at the time, all front-line city fire apparatus with the exception of one engine were committed to a fire...


On July 8, 2009, a six-alarm fire destroyed an entire block of row-houses in York, PA. The incident required a large mutual aid response because at the time, all front-line city fire apparatus with the exception of one engine were committed to a fire in a junkyard. Mutual aid companies responded...


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On July 8, 2009, a six-alarm fire destroyed an entire block of row-houses in York, PA. The incident required a large mutual aid response because at the time, all front-line city fire apparatus with the exception of one engine were committed to a fire in a junkyard. Mutual aid companies responded to the rowhouse fire from as far away as Hanover Borough and several companies from Adams, Cumberland and Lancaster counties provided move-up companies. The fire displaced 61 residents and caused more than $2.6 million in damage.

The City of York rests in the center of the largest metropolitan area in York County. The York City Department of Fire/Rescue Services comprises the largest full-time cadre of firefighters in the metropolitan area. The first volunteer fire organization in York and the county was the Sun Fire Brigade, established in 1771. This grew in time to nine volunteer companies serving York. In the two centuries since, the service has evolved from an all-volunteer department to the largest combination department in York County.

Building Construction

The rowhouses, on Chestnut Street, were built between 1905 and 1920. All of the structures were of wood-frame, balloon construction with brick-veneer exterior walls. There were alleys between every other structure with a brick wall built to the top of the second floor. The third floor was a platform constructed on top of the second floor with void spaces between floor joists that ran the entire block of houses. All of the houses had a built-up tar roof. This fire involved a row of 16 structures. Structures 701, 705, 707, 709, 711, 713, 715, 717, 719, 721, 723, 725, 727 and 729 each contained 1,115 square feet; structure 703 had 1,140 square feet and structure 731 contained 2,087 square feet. Total square footage was 18,837. No fire protection systems were present, but all of the homes contained single-station smoke detectors.

Ongoing Incident

The fire at Consolidated Scrap Resources Inc. at 600 East Princess St. was initially dispatched at 1:59 P.M., and grew to a full first-alarm fire requiring mutual aid assistance from Manchester Borough. The call was initially reported as a trash fire in the scrap yard. Engine 99-5 arrived to find a large fire in a pile of scrap material 20 to 25 feet high and 100 to 150 feet in diameter. An additional engine was immediately requested on the assignment.

Upon his arrival, the platoon commander, Assistant Chief Greg Halpin, requested a third engine and the truck be added to the assignment. This left only one engine available in the city, so a callback of personnel was initiated. Firefighters used two 2½-inch handlines and an aerial master stream from the truck to bring the fire under control. Manchester Borough supplied relief crews at the scene. Halpin declared the fire under control at 5 P.M.

York City Fire/Rescue Services units were dispatched to a report of smoke coming from the roof of several residential structures in the area of 727 Chestnut St. at 2:51 P.M. York City Engine 99-9, a 1,500-gpm pumper; York Area United Fire & Rescue Engine 89-1, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Manchester Township Truck 24, a 95-foot tower ladder with a 2,000-gpm pump; and York City Assistant Chief 99-8 Larry Shroyer responded. Thirteen firefighters and four officers responded, along with five firefighter/inspectors from the Fire Prevention Bureau who responded from the junkyard fire.

Initial observations upon arrival were smoke showing from the roofline of four three-story residential structures at 725, 727, 729 and 731 Chestnut St. Engine 99-9 was positioned in front of 727/729 and fed by a five-inch hydrant supply line. An interior attack was begun immediately on arrival by two crews with two 1¾-inch attack lines from Engine 99-9. Truck 24 was positioned in front of 715 Chestnut St. and supplied with a five-inch line. The crew from Truck 24 made a trench cut in the roof, but the fire had already advanced beyond their point of operations. Engine 89-1 was positioned in front of 721 Chestnut St.

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