Crews from the Darby Fire Company and Collingdale Fire Company 2 operate on the Alpha side of the building.
Photo credit: Photos by Frank Wesnoski
Quint 21 (Darby Fire Patrol 2) and Tower 05 (Glenolden Fire Company) operate elevated master streams.
Photo credit: Photos by Frank Wesnoski
Crews from Rescue 19 (Lansdowne Fire Company) use a metal-cutting saw to gain access through a rollup door.
Photo credit: Photos by Frank Wesnoski
Darby Pipeline 04 operates on the Alpha side of the building as heavy fire self-ventilates.
Photo credit: Photos by Frank Wesnoski
On Saturday, April 13, 2013, a three-alarm fire destroyed the Liberian Water Side Market in downtown Darby. The fire required the resources of 31 fire departments from Delaware, Montgomery and Chester counties. Approximately 30
residents were evacuated from several nearby homes and apartment buildings due to smoke conditions. Firefighters remained on the scene for 47 hours.
The building was built in the early 1900s of ordinary construction. The flat roof was comprised of wood sheeting with a tar covering. The building was approximately 75 feet wide on the Alpha side, 150 feet deep on the Bravo and Delta sides and 150 feet wide on the Charlie side. The building contained smoke detectors monitored by an alarm company.
First alarm dispatched
Darby Fire Company 1 was dispatched to an automatic alarm at the Liberian Water Side Market at 842 Main St. at 6:05 A.M. Responding on the automatic alarm were Pipeline 04 and Engine 04 with eight firefighters under the command of Lieutenant Daniel Traband. Pipeline 04 arrived on scene and found heavy smoke showing from the Alpha side.
Traband advised Delaware County Fireboard to upgrade the assignment to a working fire and to dispatch the full first-alarm commercial building response. Pipeline 04 laid a 300-foot, five-inch supply line from the intersection of Main and Powell streets to the Alpha/Delta corner of the building. Traband, as Main Street Command, advised Engine 04 to drop a manifold in front of the building and reverse lay a 700-foot supply line to the hydrant at Chester Pike and Main Street. Engine 04 hooked onto the hydrant and pumped the supply line to the manifold.
The crew from Pipeline 04 had to use a metal-cutting saw to cut through the metal security rollup door on the Alpha side to gain access to the interior. Firefighters placed a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line and a 200-foot, three-inch attack line with a monitor into operation on the Alpha side to knock down the heavy fire that was visible. Due to the heavy fire conditions, no interior attack was initiated.
Responding on the first-alarm assignment were Darby Fire Patrol 2 Quint 21, Collingdale Fire Company 1 Engine 061 and Quint 06, Collingdale Fire Company 2 Engine 42, Yeadon Fire Company Engine 16 and Ladder 16, Lansdowne Fire Company Heavy Rescue 19 as the rapid intervention team and Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital paramedics.
Collingdale Fire Engine 42 laid a supply line from a hydrant at Main Street and Ridge Avenue to the Alpha/Bravo corner of the building. This engine placed its deck gun into operation and a 2½-inch attack line was stretched to the Bravo side and placed into operation. Collingdale Quint 06 was positioned on the Alpha side and set up for aerial master stream operations. Quint 06 was supplied by Pipeline 04 and Engine 04.
Darby Fire Patrol Quint 21 laid a supply line from a hydrant at Mill and Walnut streets to the Charlie side of the building and was set up for aerial master stream operations. Yeadon Ladder 16 was positioned on the Alpha side and set up for aerial master stream operations. Ladder 16 was supplied by Engine 42.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) was notified to suspend trolley service in the area and to de-energize the overhead catenary lines for the trolleys. The Philadelphia Electric Co. (PECO) was notified to shut down the electricity in the area.
Traband took command with Fire Chief Christopher M. Caruso as operations chief. Darby Fire Company 1 Assistant Chief James Booth III was assigned to Sector A operations and Lieutenant Steven TreDenick was assigned to Sector B operations; Darby Fire Patrol 2 Chief David Rimel and East Lansdowne Fire Company Chief Thomas Johnson were assigned to Sector C operations; Darby Fire Company 1 Lieutenant Thomas Sessa was assigned to Sector D exposure operations; and Darby Fire Company 1 Captain Christopher Epps was assigned exposure roof operations.
At 6:20 A.M., Caruso established a collapse zone on the Alpha, Bravo and Charlie sectors due to the three large billboards on the roof that were in danger of collapsing. The billboards were 20 feet wide and 12 feet tall, mounted on heavy-timber supports that ran from the Bravo side to the Delta side of the building.
Charm Cleaners, a one-story, 50-by-125-foot building, was three feet from the fire building on side Delta. Windows on side Bravo of the exposed building presented a fire extension possibility. A 1¾-inch line was placed into service in the interior of the exposure. One window failed, letting smoke fill the building. The handline was placed into operation on a fog pattern to hydraulically ventilate the building.
Traband requested a second alarm at 6:33 A.M. The Briarcliffe Fire Company responded with Engine 75, a 1,500-gpm pumper; the Clifton Heights Fire Company responded with Engines 031 and 032 and Quint 03; the Glenolden Fire Company responded with Tower 05; and the Sharon Hill Fire Company responded with Engine 092. A special request was made to the East Lansdowne Fire Company for Pipeline 24.
Sharon Hill Engine 092 laid an 800-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at 7th Street and Columbia Avenue to the Bravo/Charlie corner. Glenolden Tower 05 was positioned at the Charlie/Delta corner and set up for aerial master stream operations. Briarcliffe Engine 75 hooked onto the hydrant at Ridge Avenue and Main Street and pumped the 300-foot, five-inch supply line to Collingdale Fire Company 2 Engine 42, laid by Engine 42. Clifton Heights Quint 03 was set up for aerial master stream operations in a parking lot. Clifton Heights Engine 032 laid a 400-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at 9th and Powell Street to supply Clifton Heights Quint 03. Engine 032 supplied Quint 03 with a 100-foot, five-inch line. East Lansdowne Pipeline 24 laid a 1,000-foot, four-inch supply line from a hydrant at Chester Pike and Quarry Street to the Charlie side. East Lansdowne Engine 24 hooked onto the hydrant and pumped to Pipeline 24. Pipeline 24 supplied Glenolden Tower 05 with a 200-foot, four-inch line.
The crews from Sharon Hill Engine 092 and Lansdowne Rescue 19 used metal-cutting saws to gain access to the building through a metal man door and an overhead garage door at the Bravo/Charlie corner. Once firefighters gained access, Sharon Hill Engine 092 placed its deck gun into operation along with a 200-foot, 2½-inch supply line to a monitor.
Firefighters from Darby, Glenolden, Lansdowne and East Lansdowne placed 24-foot, 28-foot and 35-foot extension ladders to the roof of the Delta exposure (Charm Cleaners) on the Charlie side. Crews made a four-foot-wide trench cut from the Alpha side to the Charlie side in the area of where the two buildings connected to stop the fire spread to the exposure. A 200-foot, 1¾-inch attack line was stretched to the roof from Darby Fire Patrol 2 Quint 21. Darby Fire Company 1 Pipeline 04 supplied a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line to the roof from the Alpha side.
At 7:21 A.M., the Cardington-Stonehurst Fire Company was requested to send Squirt 36 to the scene and the Prospect Park Fire Company was asked to send Snozzle 08 to the scene. Squirt 36 was positioned at the Alpha/Bravo corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations. Squirt 36 was supplied by a 100-foot, five-inch line from Collingdale Fire Company 2 Engine 42. Snozzle 08 was positioned on the Bravo side and setup for aerial master stream operations. Snozzle 08 was supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from Sharon Hill Engine 092.
At 8 A.M., command requested Springfield Fire Company Tower 44 to set up for aerial master stream operations at the Alpha/Bravo corner.
At 8:11 A.M. the Charlie wall collapsed, causing the roof to fall into the building. Caruso ordered all firefighters off of the Delta-exposure roof. All firefighters were accounted for.
At 8:21 A.M., Traband requested a third alarm. The Garretford Drexelhill Fire Company responded with Engine 202, the Tinicum Fire Company responded with Engine 481 and the Lansdowne Fire Company responded with Truck 19.
Engine 202 responded to the hydrant at 7th Street and Columbia Avenue and pumped the 800-foot supply line to Sharon Hill Engine 092 laid by Engine 092. Engine 481 reverse laid a 1,000-foot, five-inch line from Springfield Tower 44 located at the Alpha/Bravo corner to the hydrant at Darby Terrace and Whitely Terrace and pumped the supply line to Tower 44. Truck 19 was positioned in the 800 block of Walnut Street (Charlie side) for master stream operations. Truck 19 was set up for aerial master stream operations and supplied by Yeadon Engine 16.
In an effort to supply more water to the fireground, Traband asked the Springfield Fire Company to respond and set up drafting operations out of Darby Creek at 8:31 A.M. Springfield Engine 441 responded to Chester Pike and Walnut Street to access the creek. Springfield Engine 444 laid a 600-foot, five-inch supply line from Engine 441 to the Charlie/Delta cornert to supply Glenolden Tower 05 and Darby Fire Patrol 2 Quint 21 with additional water.
At 8:32 A.M., Delaware County Car 1, Ed Truitt, director of emergency management, and the Delaware County Hazardous Materials Team were requested to respond to the scene due to an unidentified substance running out of the building in the water runoff. Booms were set up around the stormwater drains to control animal fat and rice that was flowing out of the building with the water runoff. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also responded to the scene. Officials determined that the booms were sufficient to prevent the animal fat and rice from entering the stormwater system.
The Folcroft Fire Company was dispatched at 9:33 A.M. to Darby Creek in Folcroft to place booms in the creek in an attempt to contain any of the substance that might have made its way into the creek. Incident commanders called the Aqua Water Co. to the scene to determine whether the water pressure could be boosted in the area due to the number of hydrants being used. The water company boosted the pressure in the area at a regulating pit in the area.
At 10:10 A.M., Caruso ordered all master streams shut down to determine where the fire was still burning. At 10:30, all master streams were put back in operation until the fire was placed under control.
Traband and Caruso declared the fire under control at 11:49 A.M. Second- and third-alarm companies were released at 2 P.M. A demolition company was called to the scene so that portions of the roof and other debris could be removed to let firefighters extinguish hot spots and hidden fires. At 6 P.M., all first-alarm units were released except for Darby Fire Company 1, which returned to quarters at 6:40 P.M.
One civilian and one firefighter suffered minor injuries. The weather was clear with a temperature of 80 degrees. The fire was under investigation by Darby Borough Fire Marshal Rufus Stokes, Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Damage is estimated at $1.5 million. n