On The Job - Illinois: Massive Mutual Aid at Alsip Lumber Fire

Jay K. Bradish reports on a multi-alarm fire with more than 200 firefighters from 43 departments responding to the Chicago suburb of Alsip, IL.


Massive Mutual Aid at Alsip Lumber Fire More than 200 firefighters from 43 departments responded to the Chicago suburb of Alsip, IL, on Sunday, May 13, 2007, to battle a multi-alarm fire that eventually destroyed a family-owned lumber yard and home improvement store. Early in the incident...


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Massive Mutual Aid at Alsip Lumber Fire

More than 200 firefighters from 43 departments responded to the Chicago suburb of Alsip, IL, on Sunday, May 13, 2007, to battle a multi-alarm fire that eventually destroyed a family-owned lumber yard and home improvement store. Early in the incident, while defensive operations were still being set up, water pressure was lost due to a water-main break. And that wasn't the only challenge confronting firefighters, who also had to contend with exploding propane tanks, the hazards presented by downed power lines and an electrical substation being situated near the fire, communications problems posed by numerous units operating at the same time, traffic congestion caused by the closing of major intersections and crowds of bystanders converging on the fire scene.

The one-story masonry block building was constructed in 1962 and measured 270 feet wide by 75 feet long. The building had a wooden bowstring roof. Three outside storage sheds on the west side of the building were used for lumber storage. These lean-to structures were 190 feet by 25 feet, 85 feet by 75 feet and 20 feet by 60 feet and were constructed of 2x6 wood framing with corrugated metal decking for the roofs. There were three smaller shelters for equipment storage and cutting also in the yard. There was lumber storage under the roof along the west (about 400 feet) and north (about 300 feet) boundaries of the yard. There were no fire protection or detection systems in the building.

The Alsip Fire Department was dispatched at 12:03 P.M. to a report of a possible fire at the Fox Lumber Co. at 11300 Cicero Ave. Alsip Engine 2003, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Truck 2014, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded with nine firefighters under the command of Lieutenant Kevin Pickar. While Engine 2003 was responding, several more calls were received by the Alsip dispatch center reporting the fire. At 12:06, Pickar upgraded the response to a full still alarm as he could see a header from several blocks away. This brought an engine from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District, a truck from the Crestwood Fire Department and a squad from the Oak Lawn Fire Department to the scene.

Engine 2003 was positioned in front of the building and supplied by a 100-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Cicero Avenue. Truck 2014 was parked at the northwest corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations in an effort to prevent the fire from spreading. This unit was supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch line, also from a hydrant on Cicero Avenue. First-arriving crews found heavy fire and smoke conditions in the northwest section of the outdoor lumber yard. The crew of Engine 2003 advanced a 200-foot, 2½-inch pre-connected attack line through the building to the lumber yard. The crew from Oak Lawn backed up the Alsip crew with another 2½-inch line from Engine 2003. These two crews, however, were unable to control the huge volume of fire in the lumber storage area.

Due to the intensity of the fire, both attack lines were backed out of the building. Alsip Truck 2014's aerial master stream was flowing 1,200 gpm with a 2¼-inch tip, but could not contain the fire on the north side. Roof coverings were preventing the water from reaching the fires. Alsip Engine 2003 placed its 500-gpm deck gun in operation into the building at the northeast corner. Alsip Lieutenant Denis Kelly was the initial incident commander and took over as operations chief when Battalion Chief John Hojak of the Oak Lawn Fire Department arrived on scene. Fox Lumber operated a day-care center for employees' children; it was located on the second floor on the south end of the main building. Both of the Fox Home Center buildings were evacuated with no injuries.

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