On The Job Indiana: Three-Alarm Fire Destroys Vacant Lowell Factory

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...


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Lake County HazMat Chief Ron Svetic was assigned as the staging officer. Lake County HazMat Captain Nick Dvorsak was assigned to the C/D side along with Crown Point Fire Chief Greg DeLor, who provided reports to command regarding fire conditions in those sectors before apparatus could access them. Lake Township Engine 402 was assigned to the hydrant on West Oakley Avenue to pump to Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811. Schneider Engine 8210 was assigned to the hydrant on East Oakley Avenue to pump to Hebron Engine 1712. Shelby Engine 21-A was placed in Level 1 staging with its personnel assigned to assist Hebron and St. John crews with setup and suppression efforts on the A/B corner.

Responding on the third alarm were Hobart Fire Department Engine 5614, Beecher Fire Department Quint 405, a 75-foot aerial ladder, Lake Hills Volunteer Fire Department Engine 5912, Union Township Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1121, Dyer Volunteer Fire Department Truck 1821, a 100-foot tower ladder, Porter Township Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1310 and Cedar Lake Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1212. Hobart Engine 5614 was assigned to cover the Lowell Fire Department’s station. Beecher Truck 405 was assigned to side A next to Lowell Truck 6621 and placed its elevated master stream into operation. Dyer Truck 1821 was assigned to staging and was on standby for any further calls in Lowell’s service area. They were released from staging at 8 P.M. without operating at the scene.

Union Township Truck 1121 was assigned to relieve Hobart Engine 5614 at Lowell’s station for standby. Porter Township Engine 1310 and Fire Chief were assigned to relieve Union Township Engine 1121 to standby at Lowell’s station to cover any further calls in the Lowell and Lake Dalecarlia service area. Porter Township Engine 1310 was eventually requested at the scene to assist with cleanup of the hundreds of feet of five-inch line.

Once becoming available from the funeral of one of its firefighters, Cedar Lake Engine 1212 arrived on scene and was assigned to relay pump from the hydrant on Harding Drive 800 feet from Lowell Truck 6621. Crown Point Truck 1521 arrived at 3:30 P.M., when it became available after having maintenance performed. This apparatus was placed in staging due to lack of adequate water supply to use this apparatus and was released at 7 P.M.

 

Drafting operations

At 3:30 P.M., a drafting operation was set up using a nearby creek for an alternative water supply. This operation supplied a Lake Dalecarlia relay pumper at the fire scene using 743 feet of five-inch line. This engine then supplied Schererville Quint 8022 using an additional 625 feet of five-inch line.

Lake Hills Engine 5912 was the initial apparatus sent to set up drafting operations at a creek 500 feet east of the fire scene. After several unsuccessful attempts by Lake Hills Engine 5912 to draft, Shelby Engine 21-A was assigned this task. That engine briefly drafted from the creek, but after having to shut down for a short period to move supply lines, it burnt out its primer pump. Lowell Engine 6615 was then sent to the creek to set up for the draft operation and supplied Schererville Truck 8022 once it moved to side C to operate its elevated master stream.

After being informed by Lowell Public Works Director Greg Shook at 4 P.M. that the west-side water tower’s water supply was almost completely diminished, water-supply operations were set up from hydrants fed from the east-side water tower. Lowell Engine 6611 was assigned to a hydrant in the south municipal parking lot behind the old downtown section of Lowell 1,100 feet from the fire scene. Lake Township Support 405 and personnel were assigned to move five-inch lines from the West Oakley Avenue and Route 2 and Harding Drive hydrants to the new hydrant in the south municipal parking lot. This five-inch line was laid across a creek and through the American Legion grounds south to the fire scene. Lake Township Engine 402 was placed midline in the lay to relay pump to Beecher Truck 405 operating on side A.

Schererville Truck 8022 and Lowell Truck 6621 were moved to side C to operate elevated master streams to areas inaccessible from side A. These two apparatus were supplied with 600 feet of five-inch line fed by the drafting operation at the creek. Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811 was placed midline on side A from the drafting operation to relay pump to these apparatus. Lowell Truck 6621 laid 100 feet of five-inch line to Schererville Truck 8022 during this operation. This was not adequate to supply both trucks simultaneously; therefore, only one apparatus could operate at a time, depending on where hot spots were encountered. Schererville Truck 8022 also supplied a high-rise lay of 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose to a team of firefighters that ascended the east (and taller of the two) storage tower on the fourth and fifth stories. This team consisting of firefighters from Schererville and Lowell was led in this interior operation by Crown Point Fire Chief Greg DeLor. This operation was undertaken due to a moderate amount of burning material on the fourth and fifth stories of this storage tower, which was inaccessible using elevated master streams. This short, but strenuous, operation extinguished the fire in the east storage tower.