On Dec. 29, 2003, a spectacular five-alarm fire and explosions involving magnesium destroyed three businesses in an industrial park and caused the evacuation of approximately 425 homes and four apartment buildings in Garfield Heights, OH. The explosions were so bright that they could be seen miles...
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On Dec. 29, 2003, a spectacular five-alarm fire and explosions involving magnesium destroyed three businesses in an industrial park and caused the evacuation of approximately 425 homes and four apartment buildings in Garfield Heights, OH. The explosions were so bright that they could be seen miles away.
The Garfield Heights Fire Department was dispatched at 3:01 P.M. to a reported magnesium fire at Garfield Alloys Inc., located on Chaincraft Road in an industrial park. The industrial park is in the northern section of the city, in a setting that is lower than the surrounding areas. Chaincraft Road is a dead-end street approximately seven-tenths of a mile long with 12 industrial occupancies. Part of the water supply on Chaincraft Road has a grid system while the other part is on a dead-end main. Garfield Alloys was a magnesium recycling facility occupying three buildings on five acres of land. Approximately 30 tractor-trailer trucks were also used to store magnesium at the site.
West of the industrial park is a residential area consisting of apartment buildings and homes. These residential structures are on top of an adjacent hillside 80 to 100 feet in elevation and 800 feet away. North, east and south of the industrial park are open areas, railroad tracks, businesses and homes.
Garfield Heights Engine 1, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Tower 1, a 100-foot aerial platform with a 1,500-gpm pump, with four firefighters responded from Fire Station 1 under the command of Captain Thomas Nemetz. Ladder 2, a 75-foot quint with a 1,500-gpm pump, and Squad 2 responded from Fire Station 2 with four firefighters. Eight firefighters is the minimum manning for Garfield Heights, therefore a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) second alarm was immediately struck. Responding on the second alarm for MABAS Box 3411, Zone 1, were Maple Heights Fire Department Engine 2 and Squad 2 with four firefighters; Warrenville Heights Fire Department Ladder 1 with three firefighters; Cuyahoga Heights Fire Department Engine 26 with four firefighters; and Valley View Squad 31 and Air Truck with three firefighters. Due to the type of alarm, Valley View also dispatched Engine 35 with two firefighters and Maple Heights also dispatched Tower 1 with two firefighters.
Photo By Steven Nedrich
Garfield Heights Ladder 2 uses a ladder pipe to protect an exposure in the early stages of the fire.
While responding down Henry Street, about a minute after leaving Fire Station 1, Nemetz observed smoke and flames coming from the roof of the main building of Garfield Alloys. He immediately requested that a third alarm be transmitted. The City of Cleveland Fire Department responded with an engine and ladder company, the Independence Fire Department responded with an engine and the Newburgh Heights Fire Department responded with a squad and a 75-foot quint. A recall was issued for all off-duty Garfield Heights firefighters.
Upon arrival, Nemetz met with the plant manager concerning accountability of employees. The plant manager assured Nemetz that all employees were accounted for. He also stated that magnesium was involved in the fire. The building was constructed of masonry, steel and wood with a flat wood-and-tar roof. Fire protection equipment in the building included four 30-pound Class D fire extinguishers and two 150-pound Class D mobile extinguishing carts.
Command was established on the A side (address side) of the main building. Garfield Heights Tower 1 and Ladder 2 caught the hydrant in front of the main building A side, away from the original fire, to protect exposures. Each apparatus was supplied with a 100-foot four-inch supply line from the hydrant.