On The Job - Indiana

Jay K. Bradish describes firefighting operations at a fire that leveled a four-story warehouse and damaged several other downtown structures


On Sept. 14, 2007, a seven-alarm fire destroyed a four-story warehouse and damaged several other buildings in downtown Richmond. The warehouse was built in the late 1890s of typical brick-and-heavy-timber construction. The flat roof was covered with rubber membrane and tar. The footprint of the...


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Once the fire reached the elevator shaft, it rapidly extended into the upper floors. It became apparent that any further interior firefighting operations would be futile. Command signaled for a total evacuation of the fire building. As operations were moving into a defensive mode, Shook requested a third alarm at 3:08 P.M. Engine 5, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Truck 2, a 100-foot aerial platform with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded with three firefighters. Truck 2 is an unmanned unit, so the crew from Engine 5 picked it up while responding to the scene, per directions from Shook.

Richmond Fire Chief Michael Crawley request mutual aid at 3:09 P.M. for standby coverage at the city's fire stations. The Boston Fire Department responded with one engine, a personnel van and nine firefighters; the Centerville Fire Department arrived with one engine, one rescue, one tanker and a command car with nine firefighters; the Webster Fire Department sent a tanker and four firefighters; and the New Paris Fire Department dispatched an engine and six firefighters.

Crawley requested additional aerial ladders from the Connersville and Cambridge City fire departments at 5:21. Connersville Ladder 1, a 100-foot aerial with a 2,000-gpm pump, was positioned on the northeast side of the warehouse. This unit was supplied by a five-inch line from a hydrant on a 20-inch water main at North 20th and F streets. Cambridge City Ladder 76, a 100-foot aerial platform with a 1,250-gpm pump, was positioned on the north side of the fire building to prevent the spread of fire to a manufacturing complex across the street on North F Street. This unit was supplied by a 500-foot five-inch line from a hydrant at North 16th and F streets.

As the fire continued to rage out of control, exposures were becoming a critical factor in the incident. Exposures included Primex Plant 5, a Type II building east of the warehouse and interconnected to it on three floors by catwalks; JHG Associates, a two-story Type IV building with a flat roof 75 feet south; the Skate Co., a late-1880s three-story building constructed of brick and heavy timber and located south of the railroad tracks and 300 feet east of the burning warehouse; and the Old International Harvester Building south of the railroad tracks and west of JHG Associates.

JHG is a plastics and coating consulting company. The International Harvester building is a three-story structure constructed of brick and heavy timber spanning two city blocks to the west. Both the Skate and International Harvester buildings are used for warehousing old manufacturing equipment. A series of silos and several railcars were directly south of the burning warehouse. At the time of the fire, five bulk-storage railcars were off-loading polypropylene pellets into the silos.

Connersville, Richmond Engine 2 and 12 off-duty Richmond firefighters were given the task of stopping the fire from spreading east to Plant 5, which was connected to the fire building by catwalks on all three levels. Firefighters deployed three three-inch handlines, one to each floor, and stopped the fire from spreading into the plant. Connersville's aerial acted as a water curtain, placing the master streams between Plants 4 and 5. This unit was supplied by a 900-foot five-inch line attached to a hydrant on a 20-inch water main three blocks away.

Richmond Truck 2 was positioned between the main fire building and the JHG building at the railroad crossing and supplied with a 150-foot five-inch line from a hydrant in front of the exposed structure. Richmond Engine 6, Centerville Engine 12 and Boston Engine 81 were assigned to this location. Despite the efforts of firefighters using Truck 2's aerial master streams and a portable deck gun supplied by a five-inch line from Engine 3, this structure ignited at approximately 3:50 P.M. The building ignited initially on the roof, which was a flat tar roof and spread quickly to the south, consuming the entire roof and eventually destroying the building.

Richmond Engine 3 and Boston Engine 81 were sent to the south side of the tracks and positioned around North 16th and Railroad streets to protect the Skate building. Both placed truck-mounted monitors and three-inch handlines into operation. These units were supplied by a five-inch line from a hydrant on a 16-inch main at North 17th and Railroad streets. At the height of the fire, flames spread to the Skate building, but were quickly extinguished. Richmond Engine 4 and Centerville Engine 12 were placed on the south side of the JHG building to protect Chuck's Steak House on the corner on North 15th and North E Street. These units were supplied by a 200-foot five-inch line from a hydrant at North 15th and E streets. Both engines placed their truck-mounted monitors and several three-inch handlines into operation.