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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Harmon requested mutual aid from the Harker Heights Fire Department at 10:40 A.M. Harker Heights responded with Quint 2, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 2,000-gpm pump, and a Regional Command Vehicle with six firefighters under the command of Fire Chief Jack Collier. The Fort Hood Fire Department, 35 miles away, responded on the fourth alarm with Truck 1, a 110-foot aerial ladder with a 1,250-gpm pump, and Tanker 1, a 2,250-gallon tanker, with seven firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief of Fire Prevention Bill Welter.

Area volunteer departments were also asked to respond on the fourth alarm with tankers and brush trucks. The Salado Volunteer Fire Department responded with Tanker 3, a 2,300-gallon tanker, and Engine 4, a 1,000-gpm pumper; the Troy Volunteer Fire Department responded with Tanker 1, a 5,000-gallon tanker; the Little River-Academy Volunteer Fire Department responded with Tanker 1, a 1,800-gallon tanker; the Southwest Volunteer Fire Department responded with Tanker 1, a 1,500-gallon tanker; the Morgan's Point Volunteer Fire Department responded with two brush trucks; the Stillhouse Volunteer Fire Department responded with an engine for station coverage in Belton; the Nolanville Volunteer Fire Department responded with an engine to the scene; and the Moffat Volunteer Fire Department responded with a brush truck and was assigned to extinguish spot grass fires. Bell County Fire Marshal Steve Casey was assigned command of the tanker-shuttle operations and brush truck operations.

Harker Heights Quint 2 laid a 400-foot five-inch line from a hydrant at Third and Birdwell and was positioned at the southeast corner of the building. This unit placed its aerial master stream into operation. Firefighters opened up the east wall and found fire raging above the sprinkler system. Crews advanced a hoseline from Harker Heights Quint 2 and placed it into operation to stop the fire progression into this warehouse.

Belton Quint 2 was repositioned to a more strategic location at the front of the complex as the fire continued to spread out of control. A 200-foot five-inch supply line was laid to a hydrant at the northwest corner of the complex to supply Quint 2. Salado Engine 4 supplied Harker Heights Quint 2.

Water Shortage

At 4:30 P.M., the public works director alerted Harmon that the water supply in the municipal water tower was critically low. A tanker shuttle was established with tankers from hydrants in Temple, three miles away. A drop tank site was established at the northeast corner of the complex. Water was supplied to Belton Quint 2 and several portable monitors.

Harmon declared the fire under control at 5:26 P.M. and most mutual aid units were released by 9 P.M. Belton, Fort Hood and Temple units remained on the scene throughout the night extinguishing flare-ups. Sixty-six firefighters responded with 25 pieces of apparatus. Four million gallons of water was required to extinguish the fire. All of Belton's elevated water towers were depleted, requiring a boil-water order. Texas Commission for Environmental Quality officials were on scene to analyze water runoff for contaminants. Weather at the time of the incident was fair and warm with a temperature in the mid-70s with a three- to five-mph wind. There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters.

A three-day investigation into the cause and origin of the fire was conducted by the Belton fire marshal; State of Texas fire marshal; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and Harker Heights and Killeen fire marshals. The cause was determined as accidental. The fire caused an estimated $5 million in damage to the building and $5 million in damage to the contents.

Post-Fire Analysis

Water supply was the biggest problem during this incident. Alternative water supplies are needed for big incidents. Firefighter accountability required the use of two resources, as two systems had to be used. The career departments use an electronic system, where the volunteer departments use a manual system.

Most importantly, there were no injuries to any of the personnel involved in the incident. Mutual aid departments supplied the additional resources necessary to control the incident. Even though this was a large-loss fire, it was contained to the building of origin. Additional training has been addressed with classes on master-stream usage and fighting fires in large structures. Building pre-plans will be kept on the apparatus in the future.