On Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, the Pottstown, PA, Fire Department was faced with heavy fire emitting from two apartment buildings, six occupants needing rescue from the second floor and a jumper who was on the ground, critically injured. The Pottstown Fire Department was dispatched to a report of...
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As the rescues were being completed, additional firefighters stretched two 1¾-inch attack lines from Quint 69 and two 1½-inch attack lines from Ladder 69 to the alleyways on sides B and D to protect the two additional exposures. The front of 540 High St., the B exposure, was laddered with ground ladders and firefighters advanced two 1½-inch lines to the second and third floors from Squad 69. As these lines were being charged, the pre-piped ladder pipe on Quint 69 was put into operation to knock down the roof fire. The two crews then entered the building to extinguish the fire extension within the building. Due to the heavy involvement of 538 High St., no interior operations were initiated. Four three-inch monitors were placed into operation between the B and D exposures to replace the handlines at these locations.
Squad 69 was assigned to water supply and hooked onto a hydrant at the corner of High and Warren streets. Engine 58 was positioned on High Street and supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from Squad 69. Squad 69 also supplied a 250-foot, five-inch line to Quint 69. Engine 58's crew was assigned to suppression operations in the B exposure. Engine 57-3 laid a 700-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at the corner of Washington and Chestnut streets to a position on High Street and supplied Ladder 69. Engine 84 and Ladder 84 were assigned to the rear to assist Squrt 69. Engine 84 laid an 800-foot, five-inch line from Ladder 84 to a hydrant at the corner of High and Adams streets and hooked onto the hydrant with five-inch line. Ladder 84 set up and placed its aerial master stream into operation. Rescue 34 personnel were assigned to suppression operations on side A of 538 High St. Lengel assumed the incident commander position and assigned Assistant Department Chief Joseph Groff to A-side operations, Assistant Department Chief Brad Reinert to the B exposure, Assistant Department Chief Michael Campeggio to C-side operations and Company Assistant Chief Duane Brady to the D exposure.
Lengel requested a third alarm at 5:49. Pottstown Engines 69-4, a 1,250-gpm pumper; Engine 69-6, a 1,000-gpm pumper; Limerick Fire Company Squad 54, a 1,500-gpm pumper; and Norco Fire Company (of North Coventry Township in Chester County) Engine 64-1, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded to the scene. These units were assigned to water-supply operations and their manpower was assigned as relief crews for fire suppression. New Hanover Fire Company Ladder 37, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Skippack Fire Company Engine 86, a 1,250-gpm pumper; and King of Prussia Fire Company Heavy Rescue 47 responded to cover Pottstown's stations as a task force. Eight members of the Montgomery County Incident Support Team responded to the scene to assist Pottstown incident commanders. North Penn Canteen Service from North Wales responded to the scene to provide refreshments for firefighters.
Engine 69-4 hooked onto a hydrant at the corner of Chestnut and Washington streets with a four-inch line and pumped to Engine 57-3. Engine 69-6 laid a 400-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Washington Street to a position on High Street and supplied an additional 200-foot, four-inch line to Engine 58. Limerick Squad 54 laid a 500-foot, five-inch line from Squad 69 to a hydrant at King and Warren streets and hooked onto the hydrant with a five-inch line. Chester Engine 64-1 laid a 400-foot, four-inch line from Squad 54 to a hydrant at Chestnut and Warren streets and hooked onto the hydrant with a four-inch line.
At 6:07 P.M., the rear third of 538 High St. collapsed. The center section of the building collapsed at 7:05. With the continued use of multiple master streams and interior handlines, the fire in the exposed building (540 High St.) was declared under control at 6:42 P.M. Lengel declared the fire at 538 High St. under control at 7:26 P.M. Mutual aid and standby crews were released at 10:27 P.M.
A fire watch consisting of Quint 69 on side A and Squrt 69 on side C operated overnight. During the night, the D-side wall of 538 High St. collapsed against 534 High St. This building did not suffer any fire damage, but was damaged by the collapse and by water. The last Pottstown units left the scene at 4:50 P.M. on Saturday, Sept. 20.
Seventy firefighters operated nine engines; four aerials; three rescues; one air truck; one communications unit; three EMS units and two canteen units at the scene. Firefighters used 3,450 feet of five- inch supply line; 600 feet of four-inch supply line; 400 feet of three-inch hose; 400 feet of 1¾-inch hose; and 400 feet of 1½-inch hose. Seven hydrants supplied water from the municipal water system. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries and six civilians suffered injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to serious trauma.