On The Job - Indiana: 5-Alarm Fire Guts Historic Structures in Lawrenceburg

Jay K. Bradish details how crews faced extreme cold and strong winds that caused ice to build up quickly on equipment and firefighters, making for a dangerous fire scene.


On Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008, a five-alarm arson fire destroyed a pair of two-story historic buildings in downtown Lawrenceburg, IN. At the time of the fire, the temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit with 22-mph winds and a wind chill of zero. The extreme cold and strong winds caused ice to build up...


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On Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008, a five-alarm arson fire destroyed a pair of two-story historic buildings in downtown Lawrenceburg, IN. At the time of the fire, the temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit with 22-mph winds and a wind chill of zero. The extreme cold and strong winds caused ice to build up quickly on equipment and firefighters, making for a dangerous fire scene.

Erected in the late 1880s, the destroyed buildings were of Type III ordinary construction and had been remodeled several times over the years. They contained storefronts on the first floor and apartments on the second floor. The structures had pitched roofs covered with asphalt shingles.

The building of origin contained 3,000 square feet on each of the two floors. The structure was occupied by a screen-printing shop on the first floor and a single apartment on the second floor occupied by one resident. The building contained smoke detectors, but they were not connected to any type of central-alarm or monitoring system.

The Lawrenceburg Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at 13 East High St. at 5:12 P.M. Engines 410, 411 and 436, all 1,250-gpm pumpers; Rescue 1, a 2,000-gpm pumper; Ladder 425, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 2,000-gpm pump; Tower 435, a 105-foot tower ladder with a 1,250-gpm pump; and Brush Truck 412 responded with 38 firefighters under the command of Fire Chief Randy Abner. Although initial dispatch reports indicated a possible entrapment, a follow-up report to firefighters while responding indicated that a person had evacuated the building.

Rescue 1 arrived first and was positioned just east of the structure on East High Street. The apparatus was supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at Walnut and High streets. Heavy fire was visible on the exterior of the C side with extension into the interior of both floors and the attic space. Ladder 425 was positioned in front of the building and set up for aerial master-stream operations. This ladder was supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at High and Vine streets. Tower 435 was positioned in the alley behind the building at the B/C corner and also set up for aerial master-stream operations. This tower was fed by a 100-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant located on Walnut Street.

Engine 436 was positioned in the rear alley at the C/D corner and supplied by a 300-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Short Street. Engine 410 was positioned on High Street just east of the fire building and supplied with a 400-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at High and Short streets. Engine 411, Rescue 2 and Brush Truck 412 were staged at Walnut and High streets.

A crew from Rescue 1 initiated an interior attack on 13 East High St. Two firefighters made entry through the front door with a 200-foot 2½-inch attack line. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke with near-zero visibility, but could see heavy fire at the rear of the building. After knocking down the fire on the first floor, firefighters attempted to reach the second floor, but were driven back by extreme heat. Rescue 1 requested mutual aid from the Greendale Fire Department at 5:14 P.M. Engine 320, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Tower 340, a 95-foot aerial platform with a 2,000-gpm pump, responded with 10 firefighters.

The occupancy at 11 High St. was part of the same wooden building that was occupied by 13 High St. A three-story brick building was located at 9 High St. This building contained a restaurant on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors. To the east, 15, 17 and 19 High St. were storefronts with apartments on the second floor. A 12-foot alley separated 19 High St. from 21 and 23 High St., a wooden building that was connected to another block of buildings.

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