On The Job - Texas: Multiple Alarms, Multiple Challenges at Belton Factory Fire

Jay K. Bradish details the numerous challenges facing firefighters fromthe beginning of the incident, including the potential for wall collapse and a sizable fuel load of flammable liquids and hazardous materials in a facility that made and sold library...


Multiple Alarms, Multiple Challenges at Belton Factory Fire On Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Indeco Sales and Maco Manufacturing facility in Belton, TX. The 106-employee company manufactured and sold library equipment and classroom furniture. The large, century-old...


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Multiple Alarms, Multiple Challenges at Belton Factory Fire

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Indeco Sales and Maco Manufacturing facility in Belton, TX. The 106-employee company manufactured and sold library equipment and classroom furniture. The large, century-old building was used for manufacturing, storage, shipping and a showroom. The fire department faced numerous challenges from the beginning of the incident, including the potential for wall collapse and a sizable fuel load of flammable liquids and hazardous materials.

The original building was constructed in 1890 with several additions being added over the years. The buildings were constructed of stone, masonry and steel. The roof structures were steel I-beams covered by a built-up flat roof. The total size of the connected structures was 330,000 square feet. The entire facility was piped for a sprinkler system, but only one fire department connection (FDC) was present. All post indicator valves were painted over and fire officials were unable to determine whether they were open or closed.

The Belton Fire and Rescue Department was dispatched at 10:20 A.M. to a reported structure fire at the facility. Engines 1 and 2, both 1,250-gpm pumpers; Quint 2, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; and ALS Medic Units 1 and 2 responded with seven firefighters and Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Pritchard under the command of Fire Chief Roy Harmon. At the time of dispatch, mutual aid from the Temple Fire and Rescue Department was requested for one engine.

Upon arrival, Belton firefighters found heavy, black smoke coming from the southeast corner of the roof. A company representative informed Harmon that the fire was in the area of a room that stored paint and large amounts of flammable liquids and hazardous materials. Quint 2 was positioned at the northeast corner of the building and set up for aerial master-stream operations. This unit was supplied by a 700-foot, five-inch line laid by Engine 2 from a hydrant at Fifth and Birdwell. Engine 1 laid 100 feet of five-inch line from a hydrant at Fourth and Birdwell to the front of the building. Firefighters laid a three-inch line from Engine 1 to the FDC to supply the sprinkler system. Temple Engine 3 was positioned at the southeast corner of the complex.

Interior Attack

Belton firefighters stretched a 200-foot three-inch blitz line with a gated wye from Quint 2 to an area near the Paint Room. Two 1¾-inch pre-connects were placed into operation from this blitz line. Temple firefighters pulled two 1¾-inch pre-connects from Temple Engine 3 and entered the building to assist Belton crews with a coordinated interior attack. From this position, interior firefighters could not reach the seat of the fire due to building construction and evacuated the building within 10 minutes.

Pritchard requested an additional ladder truck from Temple at 10:30 A.M. Temple Ladder 1, a 75-foot aerial ladder, responded with six firefighters. Temple also dispatched the Regional Hazmat Truck with three firefighters. This unit screened and tested air and water quality throughout the incident. Temple Ladder 1 was positioned on the southeast side of the building and set up for aerial-stream operations. This aerial was fed by a 700-foot five-inch line from a hydrant at Sixth and Continental that was laid by Temple Engine 3.

Belton Training/Safety Officer Leroy Vargus was in charge of scene safety during the incident. Temple Public Information Office Thomas Pechal was responsible for providing information to local and regional news agencies. Temple Fire Chief Lonzo Wallace was in charge of Temple firefighting operations.

School Evacuation

Harmon initiated the evacuation of two nearby schools early in the incident due to heavy, toxic smoke in the area. Belton Intermediate School District staff members were responsible for the evacuation. One hundred eighteen students were evacuated from Waskow High School and 539 from Tyler Elementary School. All students were transported by school buses to Belton High School and placed in the gymnasium for the remainder of the day.

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