4-Alarm Fire Destroys Pennsylvania Factory

Jay K. Bradish discusses the heavy fire conditions and collapse potential at a four-alarm fire in Pottstown, PA.


Heavy Fire Conditions, Collapse Potential Bar Interior Attack On Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Innovative Machining Technologies Co. in Pottstown, PA. The fire required the resources of 12 fire departments to bring it under control. The one-story, brick and cement-block...


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Heavy Fire Conditions, Collapse Potential Bar Interior Attack

On Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Innovative Machining Technologies Co. in Pottstown, PA. The fire required the resources of 12 fire departments to bring it under control. The one-story, brick and cement-block structure was irregularly shaped, 250 feet at its longest and 140 feet at its widest and containing 22,680 square feet. The roof was constructed with riveted metal trusses, covered with wood sheathing and asphalt shingles. There were no fire detection or suppression systems in the building, originally built as the Keystone Foundry more than 100 years ago. The current occupant of the building manufactured internal parts for power generation turbines and other exotic-metal parts for customers worldwide.

The Pottstown Fire Department was initially dispatched at 6:54 P.M. for a report of heavy smoke in the area of 100 South Keim St. Responding on the first alarm were Engine 69-6, a 1,000-gpm pumper; Squrt 69, a 1,500-gpm pumper with a 55-foot articulating boom; Ladder 69, a 100-foot rear-mount aerial ladder with a 1,250-gpm pump; Heavy Rescue 69 and one ambulance with a total of 15 firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief Donald Gebhard. While units were responding, the call was upgraded to heavy smoke coming from the Innovated Machining building at 861 Cross St.

Upon arrival of the first unit, heavy fire was venting from the roof at the northern end of the building. Firefighters found heavy smoke inside the building and observation of the roof showed heat damage along the entire length of the peak of the roof as the fire had extended along the underside of the roof. It was confirmed that the building was empty of any occupants. No interior operations were initiated due to the heavy fire conditions and the possibility of early roof and wall collapse.

Squrt 69 laid a 500-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant on South Keim Street to the northeast corner of the building and placed its aerial master stream into operation. Engine 69-6 was positioned on Cross Street and supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch hydrant line. Ladder 69 was ordered to the center of the building on South Keim Street and set up for aerial master stream operations. This unit was supplied by three 50-foot, three-inch lines from fire pumps at the Dana Corp. across the street from the fire building. Rescue 69 was staged at the intersection of South Keim and Cross streets.

Upon arrival, Gebhard immediately requested a second alarm at 7:04 P.M. The Sanatoga Fire Company of Lower Pottsgrove Township responded with Engine 58, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Engine 58-1, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Quint 58, a 75-foot ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; the Friendship Fire Company of Royersford sent Engine 84, a 2,000-gpm pumper; and Ladder 84, a 100-foot ladder; the West End Fire Company of West Pottsgrove Township responded with Engine 57, a 1,500-gpm pumper; and the Collegeville Fire Company sent Rescue 34.

Second-alarm companies were deployed on the west side of the fire. Ladder 84 was positioned at the southwest corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations. This aerial was supplied by Engine 69-6 through a 100-foot, three-inch line. Engine 96-4 laid an 800-foot, four-inch supply line from a hydrant on South Keim Street to a position on the east side of the fire. Two 250-foot 2½-inch lines were laid to Squirt 69 to supplement its water supply. Two portable ground master stream devices also were deployed to the east side from Engine 69-4 and fed by 150-foot, three-inch lines. Engine 84 was placed on the hydrant on South Keim Street and pumped an 800-foot, four-inch line to Engine 69-4. Quint 58 was positioned at the northwest corner of the building and set up for ladder pipe operations. Engine 58 laid a 900-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at South and Montgomery streets to Quint 58. Engine 58-1 laid a 1,200-foot, five-inch supplemental supply line from a hydrant at Queen and South Keim streets to Squrt 69.

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