On The Job - Maryland: Many Departments Battle Fire in Frostburg Theater

Jay K. Bradish discusses a multiple-alarm fire that destroyed the historic Lyric Theatre building in Frostburg, MD, on Feb. 1, 2004; plus the latest "Hot Spots on the Web."


On Feb. 1, 2004, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed the historic Lyric Theatre building located at 16-24 East Main St. in Frostburg, MD. Before the fire was controlled, 27 fire departments from Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, Mineral County in West Virginia and Somerset County in...


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On Feb. 1, 2004, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed the historic Lyric Theatre building located at 16-24 East Main St. in Frostburg, MD. Before the fire was controlled, 27 fire departments from Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, Mineral County in West Virginia and Somerset County in Pennsylvania fought the blaze or provided station coverage.

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Photo By Jeff Rosewicz
Firefighters set up for defensive operations on side 1 of the three-story brick building. Heavy smoke and fire are venting from the building, which was of balloon-type construction with heavy-timber floor framing and a flat roof.

FROSTBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT

Chief: Michael W. Kucharczyk
PersonneL: 95 volunteer firefighters
Apparatus: Two engines, one 100-foot aerial ladder, one squad unit, one utility vehicle
Population: 8,100 (plus 5,400 when Frostburg State University is in session)
Area: 10 square miles

The three-story brick building was erected in 1876. The building, measuring 75 feet wide by 175 feet deep, was of balloon-type construction with heavy-timber floor framing and a flat roof. The original structure on the site was built in 1840 and burned down in 1873. A fire in 1950 damaged the theater portion of the latest building. Two businesses occupied the first floor and nine apartments located on the second and third floors were occupied by 14 residents. Warehouse Wars, a clothing store, occupied 16-18 East Main and Gandalf’s Restaurant and Pub was at 20-24 East Main. Apartments were located on the second and third floors at 22 East Main.

The Frostburg Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched at 6:20 A.M. to a report of smoke in an apartment at 22 East Main. The first-alarm assignment called for three engines, two trucks, one squad and an ambulance. Frostburg Engine 16-14, a 1,250-gpm pumper, Engine 16-12, a 1,500-gpm pumper, Truck 16, a 100-foot aerial ladder, Squad 16 and Utility 16 responded with a total of 35 firefighters under the command of Chief Michael Kucharczyk. LaVale Fire Department Truck 2, a 100-foot tower ladder, Shaft Fire Department Engine 17-12, a 1,000-gpm pumper, and Clarysville Fire Department Engine-Tanker 14, a 1,000-gpm pumper with 1,500 gallons of water, also responded.

Kucharczyk was first to arrive on scene and found light smoke showing from the structure. Due to the time of the day, life safety of the residents was a primary concern. Evacuations were already underway by members of the Frostburg Police Department and residents of the building. Kucharczyk requested a second alarm at 6:24 A.M. Eastern Garrett Fire Department Engine 81, LaVale Engine 2-15, Midland Fire Department Engine 18-12 and Squad 18, Tri-Towns Fire Department from Piedmont, WV, Truck 24 and Air 24 and LaVale Rescue Squad Ambulance 374 responded on the second alarm.

The initial concern for the crew of Engine 16-14 was to ensure that all occupants were out of the building. Firefighters found very light smoke on the second and third floors as they performed search and evacuation operations. Initially, firefighters didn’t need self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), but smoke conditions deteriorated rapidly on the third floor, requiring the donning of airpacks.

Engine 16-14 was positioned in front of the building and was supplied by dual three-inch 200-foot supply lines from a hydrant rated at 1,500-gpm on an eight-inch water main. Truck 16 was positioned on East Main at the 1-4 corner of the building. Engine 16-12 was positioned on East Main and was supplied with dual 100-foot three-inch supply lines from a hydrant rated at 500-1,000 gpm on an eight-inch main. Shaft Engine 17-12 was positioned at the rear of the building. This engine laid dual 500-foot three-inch supply lines from a hydrant rated at 1,000-1,500-gpm on a six-inch main. An additional three-inch supply line was hand laid 300 feet to another hydrant. LaVale Truck 2 was supplied with a 400-foot five-inch supply line from Engine 2-15. This engine hooked on to a hydrant with a five-inch supply line. This hydrant was on a 10-inch main rated at 1,500 gpm.

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