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...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Lowell Rescue 6631 responded at 5 P.M. to bring personnel to the scene and ultimately provide scene lighting. Tender 6642, a 3,000-gallon tanker, and Tender 6641, a 3,000-gallon tanker, also responded at this time to provide additional five-inch large hose as well as to supply Lake Dalecarlia 5811 during interior operations on the western storage tower.

 

Under control

Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball declared the fire under control at 6 P.M. Two large excavators were then acquired for use from Hardings Inc., a company across the street from the fire scene that services, rents and sells heavy equipment. WEL Companies provided an equipment operator and Lake Dalecarlia Fire Chief Ryan Kennedy, who is a heavy-equipment operator by trade, began demolition operations with the excavators. This allowed better access to hot spots once parts of the building were moved.

At 8 P.M., the fire in the interior portion of the west storage tower remained a concern after several attempts to extinguish it using elevated master streams were unsuccessful. A team of firefighters from Lake Dalecarlia, Hebron and Lowell led by Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball began an interior operation on the west storage tower. Lake Dalecarlia Engine 5811 was supplied by Lowell Tenders 6642 and 6641 provided two, 200-foot, 1¾-inch handlines for this operation on side D.

Firefighters scaled a ladder attached to the building to access a catwalk over the roof of the structure to a man door on the storage tower. This ladder and catwalk were sounded for stability prior to going ahead with the operation. An attack team with one 1¾-inch hoseline was sent across the catwalk to the man door and a backup team with the second, 1¾-inch hoseline was placed on the catwalk just above the ladder. When firefighters reached the unsecured man door on the storage tower, heavy fire was found just inside. The fire was quickly knocked down by the first attack team, who stated it appeared insulation that had dropped from the upper floors of the storage tower was burning.

After initial knockdown of the fire was achieved, the first attack team switched with the backup team to finish mop-up operations. The second attack team was equipped with a foam nozzle attached to the 1¾-inch line to suppress any additional fire encountered with the second attack. This operation was successful in extinguishing the interior fire in the west storage tower using less than 1,000 gallons of water.

 

Conclusion

Mutual aid departments began being released at 8 P.M., with the last units released at 4 A.M. on Aug. 11. Lowell apparatus left the scene at 4:56 A.M.

The weather was sunny with a temperature of 80 degrees. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries. It was determined that contractors using a torch for cutting operations in the center of the manufacturing area to remove beams so that machinery could be removed from the building was responsible for the fire. Damage was estimated at $3 million to the building and $393,000 to the contents. n