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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Fire Chief Richard Lengel arrived on scene at 7:10 P.M. After conferring with Gebhard, he requested a third alarm. Ringing Hill Fire Company of Lower Pottsgrove Township responded with Engine 59, a 1,500-gpm pumper; the Limerick Fire Company sent Squad 54, a rescue-pumper with a 1,500-gpm pump; the New Hanover Fire Company responded with Ladder 37, a 75-foot ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; and the North Penn Goodwill Canteen Service responded with three units. Also dispatched on the third alarm was the Montgomery County Fire Incident Support Team, which is made up of 10 command-level personnel to assist local incident commanders with support functions such as multiple safety officers, water supply officers, planning and documentation.

Ladder 37 was positioned on the west side of the structure and set up for aerial master stream operations. Squad 69 laid a 1,000-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Cross and Madison streets to Engine 57, positioned on Cross Street. Engine 57 pumped two 150-foot, three-inch lines to Ladder 37's ladder pipe.

Lengel requested a fourth alarm at 7:39 P.M. The Pennsburg Fire Company responded with Engine 65, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Ringling Hill sent Engine 59; the Trappe Fire Company responded with Engine 77, a 1,500-gpm pumper; the Friendship Hook and Ladder Fire Company of Boyertown in Berks County dispatched Ladder 15, a 100-foot ladder and the Norco Fire Company of North Coventry Township in Chester County responded with Rescue 64. These units provided standby coverage at Pottstown stations and answered several other minor calls during the fire.

Lengel declared the fire under control at 8:45 P.M. Mutual aid units were released at 12:19 A.M. on Aug. 21. Pottstown Engine 69-4 and Squrt 69 and crews provided a fire watch until 8:38 A.M. More than 130 firefighters operated five aerial devices, eight engines, three portable monitors and numerous handlines to control the fire. No injuries were reported.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was conducted by the Pottstown fire marshal, Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office fire investigator. It was determined that the fire was caused by the failure of an electrical transformer mounted inside the building near the roof. Damage was estimated at $1.3 million to the building and $2 million to the contents.

JAY K. BRADISH/IFPA, Firehouse® news editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and fire photographer for more than 25 years.