Wisconsin: Hazmat Fire Destroys 7 Structures At Washington Township Waste-Handling Site

Jay K. Bradish opens a series of case studies of hazardous materials incidents by describing the response to a fire that destroyed seven buildings, 18 storage tanks and seven trailers.


Hazardous Materials Case Studies: Mitigating Dangerous Incidents Fire departments respond to a wide variety of emergencies involving hazardous materials. In these case studies Firehouse® examines the challenges faced by firefighters and their commanders when they were called to hazmat...


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Hazardous Materials Case Studies: Mitigating Dangerous Incidents

Fire departments respond to a wide variety of emergencies involving hazardous materials. In these case studies Firehouse® examines the challenges faced by firefighters and their commanders when they were called to hazmat incidents, how those challenges were overcome and what lessons were learned. The case studies were compiled and written by Firehouse® News Editor Jay K. Bradish.

A raging hazardous materials fire destroyed the Waste Research and Reclamation Environmental Services Company Inc. plant in Washington Township, WI, on June 22, 2007. WRR is reclamation and recycling business for hazardous liquid wastes, fuel blending, and provides transportation of hazardous waste for incineration or disposal. Seven buildings, 18 storage tanks, three tanker trailers and four box trailers were destroyed. Firefighters were able to save the old processing plant, office building and laboratories, maintenance shop and three warehouse buildings from the fire thanks to yearly pre-planning of the facility.

The Township Fire Department was dispatched to the fire at 5:44 A.M. Engine 21, 22, 31, 41 and 51, Tenders 16, 26, 46 and 56, and Rescues 15, 25 and 45 responded with 40 firefighters. At the time of the fire, Fire Chief Jack Running was out of town attending the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Convention. Chief of Operations Darrell Christy requested mutual aid from the Eau Claire Fire Department at 5:48, per pre-plan guidelines established for the facility. Engine 6 and a crew of three responded. Christy, first to arrive at 5:50, was met at the front gate by employees who said the fire was in the chiller room. They also said that three employees had gone into the area in an attempt to extinguish the fire. Christy asked Gold Cross Ambulance Service to respond because employees were unaccounted for. He also reported light smoke showing from the processing area.

Christy entered the property with his vehicle and proceeded along the perimeter fence on the east side of the scene trying to locate the best access for apparatus and fire attack. When he arrived at the southeast corner, he found the three employees who tried to extinguish the fire without success. At 5:53, mutual aid was requested from the Altoona and Eleva fire departments and the Chippewa Fire Protection District. A minute later, Christy reported that this incident was a working structure fire and requested his department be re-toned for additional manpower. Altoona responded with two engines and a tender; Eleva with a tender and Chippewa with an engine, an aerial and three tenders. Altoona Engine 1 was positioned on the west side of the fire and hand-laid a 200-foot supply line to a portable monitor and placed it into operation in the area of the fire's origin. Tankers supplied a 2,000-gallon portable tank that this engine drafted from. Chippewa equipment was ordered to the staging area established at Northwest Enterprises, 600 feet from the fire scene.

Township Engines 21 and 41 arrived at 5:56. Engine 21, with a five-person crew, proceeded to the north gate as Engine 41 and two firefighters entered the east gate. Engine 21 laid 400 feet of supply line from the north gate to the area of the fire origin and wyed off with an attack line with a blitz gun positioned to apply water to cool flammable liquid tanks and another attack line with a variable nozzle that two firefighters advanced toward the chiller room. Engine 21 was set up to draft out of a 2,000-gallon portable tank to supply the attack lines. Engine 41 drafted out of a 2,000-gallon portable tank and pumped to Eau Claire Engine 6, which put its aerial master stream into operation. A water shuttle was established to supply Engines 21 and 41 for defensive operations. Altoona Engine 1 was positioned on the west side of the fire and supplied a portable monitor in operation in the area of the fire's origin. A staging area was established at Northwest Enterprises 600 feet from the fire scene.

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