Multiple-Alarm Fire Destroys White Township Printing Plant

More than 170 firefighters from four counties responded to a multiple-alarm fire that destroyed a printing plant in White Township, Indiana County, PA, on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. The fire caused $75 million in damage and left more than 200 employees out...


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The Ebensburg aerial was positioned on side C and supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from Indiana Ladder 106 and set up for aerial master stream operations. The Kittanning Township aerial was staged on West Philadelphia Street to provide coverage in case of additional calls. The high-expansion foam truck from Greensburg was positioned on side C in the area of the loading dock doors and supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from Indiana Engine 102, which was being fed with a five-inch line from Indiana Ladder 106. Over the course of operations, this unit used 150 gallons of foam concentrate that produced 3.5 million cubic feet of foam.

A rehab area was established on the front lawn of the Creps warehouse east of the fire building by Citizens Ambulance Service, the Indiana County Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Indiana Fire Association Medical Director Dr. James Dickson coordinated the evaluations of firefighters operating at the scene along with paramedics from Citizens Ambulance Service. Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries and were transported to Indiana Regional Medical Center. Food and drinks for the firefighters were donated by many of the community stores and citizens throughout the operation.

Ongoing operations

In the late afternoon, incident commanders requested heavy equipment to the scene to remove large rolls of burning paper. Rising Brothers Excavating and Don Huey Construction reported to the scene with heavy equipment that was used to move the rolls, which each weighed about a ton. They removed and pulled apart the rolls, which assisted firefighters in their extinguishing efforts. It is estimated that more than 100 tons of rolled paper was in the building at the time of the fire.

Operations began on the C/D corner. As each roll of paper was removed, firefighters used 1¾-inch lines from Indiana Engines 102 and 108 to extinguish the flames. A few columns of paper rolls were left in place to support the C/D corner of the structure. Once work was completed in this area, crews moved to the middle of side C and performed the same operations.

As this was being done, other crews entered the structure to extinguish remaining hot spots and perform overhaul operations. This process was completed at 3:30 A.M. Wednesday.

Kelly declared the fire under control at 2 P.M. Mutual aid units began being released after 4 P.M. The first units released were the aerial apparatus from Ebensburg and Kittanning and the foam truck and air truck from Greensburg. Other mutual aid units were released throughout the night. The last Indiana units left the scene at 4:34 A.M. Wednesday.

The Ligonier Volunteer Fire Department, Station 43, and Waterford Volunteer Fire Department, Station 44, both from Westmoreland County, responded to Indiana’s West Station at 9 P.M. and remained on standby until 8 A.M. Wednesday. Two engines and 10 firefighters responded so that Indiana crews could get much-needed rest. There were no other calls during the night.

Indiana units were recalled to the scene at 10 A.M. Wednesday to extinguish large rolls of printing paper that had reignited. Firefighters remained on the scene until 3:30 P.M. Firefighters were again called back on Thursday and Friday for burning rolls of paper. On Friday, the last remaining burning rolls of paper were removed from the building and extinguished.

More than 170 firefighters operated three aerial apparatus, five engines at the scene, four engines for water supply, one high-expansion foam truck and three air trucks at the scene. Over one million gallons of water was used from the municipal water system to extinguish the fire. Weather conditions were 65 degrees and clear with light winds. The origin and cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal and numerous insurance companies. Damage is estimated at $75 million and more than 200 workers are out of work. Company officials planned to begin rebuilding in the spring.

 

Lessons learned

The biggest problem was getting enough water to supply master streams. This was overcome with the long lay of five-inch supply lines and the help of the Pennsylvania American Water Co. and mutual aid departments.

Another major problem was communications. Currently, Indiana County only has three channels to operate on. The out-of-county units that responded had no operating frequencies on which they could talk with command or Indiana County units. Indiana County is in the process of a major radio project to place all units in the county on a high-band radio system and let all units working an incident communicate on a tactical channel. The system is scheduled to be operational by July.