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n Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, a three-alarm fire destroyed the former Rieter Automotive Systems Group plant in Lowell, IN. Due to the advanced stage of the fire on arrival, no interior operations were initiated. Even though five municipal hydrants were in use, water supply became an issue several hours into the incident, so a drafting operation was set up using a nearby creek.
The vacant plant, which was being demolished at the time of the fire, consisted of a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing area built of Type II and Type III construction and a 110,000-square-foot warehouse built of Type II construction. The roof was made of a partial metal/partial flat-rubber/aggregate material and partial bow-string truss. All fire detection and protection systems were shut off when the plant closed in November 2010. The facility had produced acoustic and automotive-trim products for vehicle and appliance manufacturers.
The Lowell Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at the Rieter plant at 101 West Oakley Ave. at 11:45 A.M. Engines 6611 and 6615, Quint 6621, a 75-foot aerial ladder, and Squad 6651 responded with seven firefighters under the command of Assistant Fire Chief Charlie Scott. The Lake Dalecarlia Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engine 5811 and three personnel on automatic mutual aid and Tri-Creek Emergency Medical Services responded with an ambulance for standby.
Squad 6651 was first to arrive. Scott found heavy smoke coming from a large portion of the manufacturing area roof and fire showing on side D (west) of the structure from open overhead doors. The contractor working on the demolition had evacuated 12 workers from the plant and advised Scott that all workers were accounted for.
Lowell Engine 6611 laid an 800-foot, five-inch line from the nearest working hydrant located directly north of the fire scene on Harding Drive to side A. Lowell Aerial 6621 were positioned on side A and supplied with a 100-foot, five-inch line from Engine 6611. Engine 6611 placed its deck gun into operation and Aerial 6621 was set up for aerial master stream operations. Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811 was assigned to the A/D corner. Lowell Engine 6615 laid a 650-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Oakley Avenue west of the scene to supply Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811, which placed its deck gun into operation. Engine 6615 was staged and its crew was assigned to assist with master stream deployment.
Scott requested a box alarm at 11:48 A.M. St. John Fire Department Truck 7521, a 100-foot tower ladder, Hebron Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1712 and a chief’s vehicle and Crown Point Fire Rescue Engine 1515, Truck 1521, a 100-foot tower ladder, one ambulance and a chief’s vehicle responded with 28 firefighters. St. John Truck 7521 was positioned at the A/B corner and set up for elevated master stream operations. Hebron Engine 1712 laid a 450-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant to the east on Oakley Avenue to supply St. John Truck 7521.
Scott requested second and third box alarms at 11:56 A.M. Second-alarm responding units included Schererville Fire Department Quint 8022, a 75-foot aerial ladder, Shelby Volunteer Fire Department Engine 21-A, Schneider Volunteer Fire Department Engine 8210 and Lake Township Volunteer Fire Department Engine 402. Lake County HazMat responded with two command vehicles and two light plants. Schererville 8022 was placed on side A between Lowell Engine 6611 and Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811 and set up for elevated master stream operations, supplied by Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811.
Schneider Engine 8210 and Lake Township Engine 402 laid a five-inch line from the north at Route 2 and Harding Drive to the scene. This proved to be 500 feet short because both Schneider and Lake Township serve rural areas with no hydrants and therefore do not carry large amounts of five-inch hose. Crown Point Engine 1515 finished the 1,080-foot, five-inch line from the north at Route 2 and Harding Drive that Schneider and Lake Township started to supply Beecher Truck 405. Crown Point Engine 1515 was positioned at that hydrant on Route 2 and Harding Drive to pump to Beecher Truck 405