Be Ready for "The Big One"

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed two buildings at the White Oil Co., a division of Michigan Petroleum Technologies, in Vienna Township, MI. Building one, (the original fire building), built in 1973, was a 128-by-70-foot...


On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed two buildings at the White Oil Co., a division of Michigan Petroleum Technologies, in Vienna Township, MI. Building one, (the original fire building), built in 1973, was a 128-by-70-foot warehouse with an 18-by-46-foot loading dock...


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On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed two buildings at the White Oil Co., a division of Michigan Petroleum Technologies, in Vienna Township, MI. Building one, (the original fire building), built in 1973, was a 128-by-70-foot warehouse with an 18-by-46-foot loading dock. Building two, built in 1998, contained a 20-by-80-foot office area; a 125-by-80-foot warehouse; and a 50-by-80-foot warehouse addition built in 2000. Both buildings were site-built steel warehouse-type structures with steel clear span roof beams and steel roofs. There were no fire detection or suppression systems in the buildings.

White Oil is in a sparsely populated area with no businesses or residences to the south toward Wilson Road and only the Pine Hill Golf Driving Range and Siding World to the north on the east side of the road and Clio Sand and Gravel on the west side of the road toward Tobias Road. To the northeast, Tobias Road is the first residential area.

The Clio Area Fire Department (CAFD) is a "fire authority" for three municipalities — City of Clio, Thetford Township and Vienna Township — in Genesee County. Chief Gary Domerese commands the 65-member paid-on-call department that responds out of two stations and covers a 72-square-mile area with a population of 22,000.

CAFD Stations 1 and 2 were dispatched at 3:30 P.M. for a commercial structure fire at White Oil at 11134 and 11136 North Saginaw Road by the Genesee County 911 Dispatch Center. Engine 11 and Pumper/Tanker 17, with its 2,000-gallon tank, responded from Station 1. Engine 21, Pumper/Tanker 25 (2,000-gallon tank) and Squad/Air 28 responded from Station 2 with 17 firefighters. Station 1 Battalion Chief Kirk Todd and Captain Bob Mansfield responded along with Domerese. The CAFD responds from both stations on all structure fires in the fire district and Aerial 12, a 100-foot aerial platform with a 1,500-gpm pump, responds on all commercial responses as a standard operating procedure. Aerial 12 did not respond until 3:48, as a driver and operator were not immediately available.

Todd and Mansfield arrived on scene at 3:34 and reported a "working fire" in the building at 11136 North Saginaw. On arrival, fire was visible in two west windows (windows 1 and 2) on the south side of the pedestrian door on the A (west) side of the building. Heavy, black smoke was issuing from overhead doors on the D (south) and C (east) sides of the building. The smoke was traveling southwest to northeast and moving freely through the building. Overhead doors on the C and D sides were open due to the high outdoor temperature. All four company employees had evacuated the building.

Engine 11 arrived at 3:35 and was positioned on side A of the fire building. The Engine 11 officer, Lieutenant Jeremy Kline, was directed to hook the hydrant at the north side of the property and have firefighters put four 1¾-inch attack lines into operation through the A-side windows. Kline went around the fire building and saw heavy black smoke coming out of the east door. Pumper/Tanker 17 laid a 700-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant to supply Aerial 12 when it arrived on scene. Kline then used the crew from Pumper/Tanker 17 to remove glass from additional windows on side A.

Domerese arrived at 3:39 and took command. He assigned Todd as operations officer and Mansfield as safety officer. Domerese and Todd heard a sound like popcorn popping and small projectiles were coming out the windows on side A. It was later discovered that fire had advanced to an area where 10,000 aerosol cans of petroleum products, including WD-40, carburetor cleaner and brake cleaner, were stored just inside the window.

Initial Mutual Aid

At 3:35 P.M., Todd requested mutual aid from the Mount Morris City and Genesee Township fire departments. Mount Morris City Engine 44-11, a foam-capable pumper with a crew of five, and Genesee Township Pumper/Tanker 29-12, with a 2,000-gallon tank and a crew of five, responded to the scene. Todd also requested the evacuation of residents on Tobias Road (a quarter-mile from the fire) between Saginaw Road and Berkshire Drive. Genesee County 911 used the Reverse 911 System to alert homeowners in the affected area.

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