On Thursday, May 24, 2012, a three-alarm fire destroyed the Se-Wy-Co Fire Company’s Leithsville Station in Hellertown, PA. The fire was the result of a motor vehicle accident involving a car and a tri-axle dump truck hauling 19 tons of asphalt. Both vehicles ended up inside the fire station from the force of the impact.
The driver of the car died in the accident. Three pieces of apparatus and all of the equipment they carried were destroyed in the fire.
The 6,500-square-foot fire station, which is located in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County, in eastern Pennsylvania, was a pre-engineered steel building with a steel roof built in 1984. The building consisted of four apparatus bays, a radio room, an office, an air room, a training room, restrooms and a workshop/tool room. There were no fire protection or detection systems in the building. The Se-Wy-Co and Leithsville fire companies operated under a joint-venture agreement since February 2010 and officially merged in September 2012. The Se-Wy-Co Fire Company dates to 1926; its name is derived from the areas of Seidersville, Wydnor and Colesville.
The Se-Wy-Co Fire Company was dispatched to a reported traffic accident and fire at Route 412 and Flint Hill Road (the Leithsville fire station) at 12:55 P.M. Responding on the initial alarm were Se-Wy-Co Engine 1812, a 2,000-gpm pumper; Ladder 1821, a 105-foot ladder tower with a 2,000-gpm pump; and Heavy Rescue 1841; Hellertown Volunteer Fire Company Engine 1313, a 1,000-gpm pumper, Southeastern Volunteer Fire Company Tender 6231, a 3,000-gallon tanker with a 1,500-gpm pump; Upper Saucon Volunteer Fire Company Telesquirt 2711, a 1,250-gpm pumper with a 50-foot telesquirt; and Steel City Volunteer Fire Company Pumper/Rescue 6341, a 1,500-gpm pumper with 17 firefighters under the command of Hellertown Assistant Chief 1352 Matt Andree.
Lower Saucon Police Sergeant Thomas Barndt, who is the Se-Wy-Co fire chief, reported heavy smoke showing from about a half-mile out and requested a second alarm and a Level 2 Tender Task Force (10 tenders) at approximately 1 P.M.
First-arriving units found the building fully involved and one victim outside of the building with burn injuries. Hellertown Engine 1313 was positioned off of the A/B corner of the building. This engine drafted from a 3,500-gallon portable tank for its water supply. This operation was supplied by two tender task forces from Northampton/Lehigh counties. Upper Saucon Telesquirt 2711 was positioned in front of the building and supplied by Springtown Volunteer Fire Company Number 1 Tender 40, located on the south side of the building. Tender 40 drafted from three 3,500-gallon portable tanks supplied by a Bucks/Montgomery County Tender Task Force. Se-Wy-Co Ladder 1821 was positioned at the rear of the building and supplied by an 800-foot, five-inch line from Hellertown Engine 1313. Firefighters deployed two portable master stream devices on side A from Hellertown Engine 1313. Both devices were supplied with three-inch lines. A 200-foot, 1¾-inch attack line from Engine 1313 was placed into operation on the south side of the building to protect two oil tanks.
Responding second-alarm units included Nancy Run Fire Company Engine 1412 as the rapid intervention team unit, Freemansburg Volunteer Fire Company Engine 1212, and Fountain Hill Fire Department Ladder 3431. The tender task forces were made up of units from Springtown, Richlandtown Volunteer Fire Company, Ottsville Volunteer Fire Company, Community Fire Company Number 1 of Riegelsville, Tylersport Volunteer Fire Company, Milford Township Volunteer Fire Company, Upper Saucon, Lower Milford Township Volunteer Fire Company Number 1, Vera Cruz Volunteer Fire Department, Eastern Salisbury Fire Company, Goodwill Fire Company Number 1 of Trexlertown, Williams Township Fire Company, Hecktown Volunteer Fire Company, Steel City, Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company Number 1, Plainfield Township Volunteer Fire Company, East Allen Township Volunteer Fire Department, Allen Township Fire Company, and Southeastern. Upon arrival, Lower Saucon Township Fire Marshal 1661 Ken Lubyli assumed command of the incident.
Andree requested a third alarm at 1:05 P.M. Units responding to the scene included Williams Township Engine 2812, Eastern Salisbury Rescue 2041 and Hellertown Engine 1311. Palmer Township Engine 2712 was requested to cover Lower Saucon Township and Hellertown from Hellertown’s station, which is centrally located. The Lehigh County Special Operations team was dispatched to assist with booms for diking/damming of runoff and the Northampton County Emergency Management Agency also responded to assist.
One water supply was located 2½ miles away in Lower Saucon. This hydrant was on a 10-inch water main. The second hydrant water supply was on Route 412 in Springtown, Bucks County, approximately six miles away.
Lubyli, the Lower Saucon fire marshal, declared the fire under control at 3:19 P.M. Mutual aid departments began being released at 4:32 P.M. The last Se-Wy-Co equipment left the scene at 3:51 A.M. on Friday, May 25.
One hundred twenty-five firefighters operated at the scene of the fire. Three apparatus were in the station at the time of the fire. Due to the intensity of the fire when the first firefighters arrived, no apparatus could be removed from the station. Engine 1811, a 1,750-gpm pumper; Tender 1831, a 3,000-gallon tender with a 1,750-gpm pump; and Forestry Truck 1844 were destroyed in the fire along with all of the equipment carried on the apparatus. Additionally, all fire department equipment inside the structure was lost.
Following the fire, the department ordered a 3,000-gallon tender with a 2,000-gpm pump and began construction of the new station. n