On The Job: NEW YORK

On Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008, fire destroyed the International Fiber Corp. plant in North Tonawanda, NY. The company manufactures products to serve food, pharmaceutical, auto and industrial applications. Challenges facing firefighters included plant...


On Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008, fire destroyed the International Fiber Corp. plant in North Tonawanda, NY. The company manufactures products to serve food, pharmaceutical, auto and industrial applications. Challenges facing firefighters included plant connections that were not compatible with fire...


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On Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008, fire destroyed the International Fiber Corp. plant in North Tonawanda, NY. The company manufactures products to serve food, pharmaceutical, auto and industrial applications. Challenges facing firefighters included plant connections that were not compatible with fire department hose couplings and a delayed response by mutual aid companies. Also, open doors and long hallways allowed the fire to advance rapidly throughout the complex.

The 85,000-square-foot facility consisted of a group of interconnected buildings, with the oldest building being constructed in 1917. The main plant was constructed of Type II materials and the maintenance building was of ordinary construction. The roof of the main building was made of corrugated steel while the maintenance building roof was constructed of wood. One-third of the plant contained a sprinkler system. The sprinklers in this portion of the plant were operational, which limited the damage to the rear of this building.

At 6:37 A.M., the North Tonawanda Fire Department received a telephone call from an employee at the city water-pumping station that there was a fire in a building across the street on Archer Street. Engines 4 and 6, both 1,500-gpm pumpers; Ladder Truck 1, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Medium Rescue 1; and Command Car 10 responded with six firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief Christopher Fritz.

Upon arrival, Fritz found fire venting from the southeast corner of the facility, which was the maintenance shop, with light smoke showing from the roof-line eaves. Engine 4 laid a 100-foot, four-inch line from a hydrant next to the city pumping station to a position across from the fire building. The crew from Rescue 1 advanced a 1¾-inch attack line through a man door at the northwest corner of the two-story section of the building. A second 1¾-inch attack line was stretched as a backup line. A 2½-inch attack line was stretched to the south side of the building and used for exposure protection. Although the interior crews could not find the seat of the fire using a thermal imaging camera, hot spots were found overhead and firefighters used the attack line on those areas. After several minutes, fire was observed venting from the windows on the north side of the building near the roof. This was above and behind the interior attack team.

Fritz ordered firefighters to evacuate the building at 6:57 A.M., 18 minutes into operations. Truck 1 and Engine 6 were repositioned to the south side of the building. A 200-foot, four-inch line was laid from a hydrant at the end of Archer Street by Engine 6. Truck 1 was supplied with a 100-foot, four-inch line from Engine 6. Truck 1 placed two aerial master streams and two 2½-inch handlines into operation. The handlines were used to extinguish fire in truck trailers at the rear of the building.

Fritz requested a mutual aid truck and engine from the City of Tonawanda at 6:59 A.M. Due to another ongoing incident in the city and confusion with the County Dispatch Center, these units were not dispatched at this time. The fire continued to spread and was now seen extending past the Plant 6 Blender area toward the Detroit Street side of the building. The City of Tonawanda Fire Department was again requested at 7:15 A.M. to send an engine and a truck to the scene. Also, a request was made to Niagara County Fire Dispatch to send two engine companies from Niagara County for standby. Adams Fire Company Engine 1E1 and St. Johnsburg Fire Company Engine 20E1 responded and were then rerouted to the scene at 7:18 A.M. Shawnee Fire Company Engine 22E2 was requested to cover in for standby at North Tonawanda Fire Headquarters at 7:32 A.M.

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