On The Job - Michigan: 9-Alarm Fire Destroys Clinton Mill

Jay K. Bradish reports on a nine-alarm blaze with firefighters from nine departments responding to the scene.


Firefighters from nine departments responded to a nine-alarm fire that destroyed a 119-year-old mill in Clinton on April 16, 2007. The four-story Woolen Mill was constructed in 1866 and processed fleece from cleaning to producing wool cloth or fabric. The structure was destroyed by a fire in 1886...


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Clinton Engine 76-1 was positioned in front of the building on side A and supplied by dual five-inch lines. Approximately 2,000 feet of five-inch supply line was laid from hydrants on two different loops of the water system to obtain maximum flow. Clinton Engine 76-E1 fed a 300-foot, three-inch line that supplied a ground monitor in a doorway at the west end of side A, two 200-foot, two-inch pre-connected handlines operating through another doorway on side A, and a 200-foot, 2½-inch handline operating through a ground-level window on side A.

Tanker 76-T2 was then assigned to the draft site on U.S. 12, 500 feet west of the incident. Clinton Engine 76-E2 was also assigned to this draft site and supplied one of three five-inch lines to the incident. Adrian City Truck 71-4 was positioned on the north side of the building on side A and set up for water tower operations. Tecumseh Engine 86-E1 was positioned at the B/C corner on River Street for exposure protection of multiple homes, a doctor's office, a warehouse and apartments. This engine was supplied by a hydrant a block away.

Firefighters placed a 2½-inch and two 1¾-inch handlines into operation protecting the exposures. Tecumseh Truck 86-T3 was positioned at the B/C corner and set up for master stream operations. This unit was fed by a 200-foot, four-inch line from a hydrant on Church Street. Tecumseh Chief Joe Tuckey, and Assistant Chiefs Scot Long and Bill Tooman were assigned as operations officers on sides B and C.

It first appeared that the fire was being held down for possible extinguishment in the basement, but a flashover occurred and within 30 seconds, the fire traveled from the basement to all four floors, engulfing about 70% of the building. It is believed that the fire traveled up an equipment elevator shaft that ran from Division 1 through Division 4 of the main building. Defensive strategies were initiated at 4:10 A.M. to protect exposures and to initiate the evacuation of homes along River Street. Manchester Engine 7-1 was assigned to exposure protection on River Street, a block from the scene to protect houses exposed by flying embers. Firefighters used two 1 ¾-inch handlines and a deck gun to protect the exposures. Two additional aerial apparatus were requested at this time. Madison Township Fire Department responded with Truck 88-T5 and Pittsfield Township sent Truck 10-T2. Madison Truck 88-T5 was positioned on side A at the A/D corner and set up for aerial master-stream operations. Firefighters also placed a 1,000-gpm ground monitor into operation from this truck. The monitor was supplied by a 500-foot, four-inch line from Manchester Engine 7-2, which was fed by Manchester Engine 7-3 at draft from the River Raisin, 1,200 feet away. Pittsfield Township Truck 10-T2 was positioned at the A/B corner and set up for aerial operations. This unit was supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch hydrant-supply line (this was originally the second supply line laid for Clinton Engine 76-E1). Later in the incident, Pittsfield Truck 10-T2 was repositioned to side C of the building. Pittsfield, Chelsea and Clinton firefighters were assigned to trench ventilate a structure that was connected to the main fire building. This operation, along with water protection, prevented the fire from extending into the connected structures.

When it became apparent that additional water supplies would be needed, drafting operations from the River Raisin on U.S. 12 were assigned to Manchester and Clinton personnel. Clinton Engine 76-E2, Manchester Engine 7-3, Sand Lake 90 Draft 5 and Clinton Tanker 76-T2 were set up at draft. Manchester Assistant Chief Gary Weidmayer, Firefighter Bob Blumenauer and Lieutenant Brian Kunzelman were assigned to coordinate drafting operations.

The Ridgeway Township Fire Department was assigned the task of supplying another large-diameter line from the River Raisin at Water Works Park at the end of River Street to the south side of the incident. Ridgeway Engine 74-3 drafted from the river and supplied 1,500 feet of five-inch line laid by Chelsea Tanker 6-1, which supplied a 1,000-gpm ground monitor and a 2½-inch handline in the courtyard for exposure protection.

During the incident, three ground monitors were moved around on side C and in the courtyard that was accessible only from that side. The courtyard was not accessible by apparatus, so all handlines and equipment had to be hand carried 200 feet through a gate opening. This courtyard was in the middle of the three main buildings.