Pennsylvania: Large Fire Load At Bern Township Chemical Plant

Sixteen fire departments battled a fire that involved a large inventory of flammable, caustic and acidic chemicals and a large fire load of cardboard.


Sixteen fire departments were needed to extinguish a three-alarm fire at a chemical manufacturing company in Bern Township, PA, on Jan. 11, 2007. Firefighters initially faced several problems, including a large inventory of flammable, caustic and acidic chemicals, a large fire load of cardboard...


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Sixteen fire departments were needed to extinguish a three-alarm fire at a chemical manufacturing company in Bern Township, PA, on Jan. 11, 2007. Firefighters initially faced several problems, including a large inventory of flammable, caustic and acidic chemicals, a large fire load of cardboard and how to contain the contaminated water runoff. Despite these challenges, no injuries were reported by civilians or firefighters and firefighting efforts saved a portion of the building containing the offices, the shipping area, wax manufacturing facilities and part of the cleaner manufacturing area. The facility reopened with limited operations just four days after the fire.

The one-story, 60,000-square-foot building was built in 1971 with a steel truss frame, concrete block and metal walls, and an aluminum sheet roof. The building contained smoke and heat detectors that were monitored at a central station within the facility.

The Greenfields Fire Company was dispatched at 9:37 P.M. to a reported structure fire at the Misco Products Corporation. Greenfields Engines 55 and 55-1 responded with 10 firefighters under the command of Second Assistant Chief Steven Keppley. Also dispatched on the initial alarm were Mount Pleasant Fire Company Quint 30 and Tanker 30; Leesport Fire Company Engines 37-1 and 37-3 and Tanker 37; and Spring Township Fire Department Heavy Rescue 85 and Light Rescue 85-1 as the rapid intervention team. Schuylkill Valley Emergency Medical Service Squad 670 and the Bern Township Police Department also responded.

First-arriving units found heavy fire emitting from side D of the building. The fire was in the A-D wall behind the tank farm of flammable liquids. Thirteen employees had already evacuated the building and no homes were immediately threatened.

Engine 55 laid a 200-foot supply line from a hydrant on Stinson Drive to the A-D corner of the building. Engine 55-1 hooked onto the hydrant with a supply line and pumped to Engine 55. Engine 37-3 laid a 500-foot supply line from Engine 37-1 located on Old Airport Road to the A-D corner of the building. Engine 37-1 hooked on to the hydrant with five inch supply line. Quint 30 was positioned at the A-D corner of the building and supplied with a 100-foot supply line from Engine 37-3. An additional 150-foot supply line was laid to Quint 30 from Engine 55. Rescues 85 and 85-1 were positioned on Stinson Drive. Tankers 30 and 37 were staged approximately a half-mile away at Heyco Metals.

An initial interior attack was initiated by two crews. One crew advanced an attack line from Engine 55, while the other crew advanced an attack line from Engine 37-3, both with Class B foam. Intense heat, flames and running spill fires pushed the firefighters back to the warehouse area of the building. Firefighters were able to operate inside for 30 minutes before the fusible links on an interior roll door activated, closing the door and blocking access to the fire. Firefighters evacuated the building and defensive operations were initiated at 10:05 P.M.

Greenfields Captain Brian Fisher requested mutual aid at 9:42. The West Reading Fire Department responded with Engine 64, Truck 64 and 16 firefighters and the Temple Fire Company sent Engines 11-1 and 11-2 and Heavy Rescue 11 with 14 firefighters. Truck 64 was positioned at the A-B corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations. Special calls were made by Keppley for additional resources at 10:20 P.M. The Goodwill Fire Company of Hyde Park responded with Ladder 10; the Bernville Fire Company dispatched Heavy Rescue 29; and the Sinking Spring Fire Company sent Truck 51. Sinking Spring Engine 51 relocated to the Greenfields fire station to cover Bern Township. Ladder 10 was positioned at the B-C corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations. Truck 51 was positioned at the C-D corner for aerial master stream operations.

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