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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Investigators from York City Police, the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal's Division, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and a K-9 unit and personnel from the Dauphin County's District Attorney's Office conducted a 4½-hour on-scene investigation. It was determined that the fire originated on the second floor of 727 Chestnut St. and spread throughout the block via openings in construction. Damage was estimated at $1,764,400 to the buildings and $850,000 to the contents. Approximately $5,000 worth of fire equipment was damaged.

Lessons Learned

  • Problems: Water supply was hampered by another large fire in the city. Construction of the buildings worked against firefighters by providing a concealed void space the length of the block. The need to evacuate an entire city block was daunting, but with the help of the county sheriff's office and the Red Cross for shelter, the task was well handled. One residence contained a large quantity of firearms ammunition and black powder. Ammunition began to go off during interior operations as well as black powder exploding, cause a change to completely defensive operations.
  • Successes: Early recognition of a well-advanced fire and the need for heavy streams and appliances. No civilian injuries. The department feels that it was prepared as well as it could have been considering all of the factors. This incident outstripped the department's resources, but with good box-alarm planning, it filled the resource requirements very quickly.