18 Departments Battle Illinois Warehouse Fire

Eighteen fire departments were needed to extinguish a fire at a trucking company warehouse in Nashville, IL, on June 7, 2006. The warehouse was owned and operated by NOTS Warehouse and Distribution Service for storing materials, including paints, stains and solvents plus wooden pallets and thousands of empty plastic buckets. Because the sole hydrant in the area was capable of delivering only 500 gpm, commanders knew that extra tankers and portable tanks would be needed quickly.

The building, one of 10 in an industrial park, was constructed in 1992 with a steel frame, metal sides and metal roof. The interior of the 53,100-square-foot structure was divided into two parts, separated by a metal wall with a 20-foot opening on its north end. The two parts of the building measured 18,000 square feet and 35,100 square feet. Six overhead garage doors (three in each section) provided dock access for loading and unloading tractor-trailer trucks. The building was equipped with heat sensors, but no sprinkler system was present. Activation of the heat sensors would alert 911 dispatchers in the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

The initial alarm was reported at 9:50 P.M. by Lieutenant Brian Fletcher of the Nashville Police Department during a routine patrol. Fletcher reported that the building erupted into flames. At the same time, the 911 center received alarms from the heat sensors. The Nashville Community Fire Protection District was dispatched immediately. Engines 4829, 4822, 4826 and 4821, the 3,500-gallon Tanker 4834 and Rescue 4848 responded with 24 firefighters under the command of Fire Chief Alan Hohlt. Automatic mutual aid dispatched on the initial alarm included Hoyleton Fire Protection District Engine 4525 and the 3,000-gallon Tanker 4531; Addieville Fire Protection District Engine 125, the 2,700-gallon Tanker 132 and Rescue 144; Ashley Fire Protection District Tankers 4234 and 4236, each carrying 1,500 gallons; and the Okawville Fire Protection District's 2,600-gallon Tanker 936 and medium Rescue 942.

First-in Engine 4829 was positioned on the north side of the building and Hohlt reported fire showing on the south and west sides. Hohlt requested the City of Centralia's 75-foot ladder truck to respond. Engine 4822 laid 1,000 feet of supply line from the lone hydrant in the area to Engine 4829. Nashville Engine 4826 and Addieville Engine 125 each laid 1,200 feet of supply line from the north side of the building to a nearby lake north of the warehouse. Each engine drafted with 30 feet of hard suction. Addieville Engine 125 supplied first-in Engine 4829 in addition to the hydrant supply line. Engine 4826 was set up and supplied Centralia Ladder 9222.

During the initial operations, the interior sector officer, Nashville Assistant Chief Dave Bochantin, had three two-member crews advance two 1¾-inch lines and one 2½-inch line into the warehouse near the metal dividing wall. The lines were placed into operation in an effort to keep the fire from reaching the larger part of the warehouse that also contained paints and solvents. As the interior crews that were rotating became exhausted due to the high temperatures in the building and the 75-degree night air, Nashville Captain Sam Brammeier informed command that additional manpower was needed. Additional mutual aid was requested from 13 Clinton County fire departments. The Aviston, Beckmeyer, Breese, Carlyle, Clin-Clair, Germantown, Hoffman, Huey-Ferrin-Boulder, New Baden, St. Rose, Sante Fe, Sugar Creek and Wheatfield fire districts responded. Addieville Fire District Assistant Chief Ronnie Kolweier was the staging officer for the Clinton County departments. The City of Mount Vernon Fire Department was asked to send an aerial at 10:45 P.M. Upon its arrival, the exterior sector officer, Nashville Assistant Chief Ric Jones, positioned the aerial at the southwest corner of the warehouse, where it was supplied by a 1,000-foot five-inch line from a Beckmeyer pumper drafting from a lake west of the warehouse. This lake was on the opposite side of State Route 127 and forced the road to be closed for 12 hours.

Hoyleton Engine 4525 was positioned on the south side of the warehouse. Firefighters operated two 1¾-inch lines, one 2½-inch line and the deck gun onto the roof and through burned-out skylights. This engine drafted out of two 3,500-gallon portable tanks that were supplied by six tankers. Ashley Fire District Assistant Chief Jeff Sterns was the water shuttle supply officer. The nearest hydrant for the tankers to refill at was two miles away. Nashville Engine 4892 placed its deck gun into operation in an effort to cool the roof above the area of where the interior crews were operating.

At midnight, fire commanders requested two trackhoes from local contractors, Habbe Excavating and Glen D. Snead Inc. Hoyleton Fire Chief Brad Rommelman directed the use of the heavy equipment, which pulled the metal roof and walls off the building, allowing for better water penetration. The trackhoes pulled some of the burning product out of the building for extinguishment.

Hohlt declared the fire under control at 4 A.M. Mutual aid units from Clinton County were released at 6 A.M. The last Nashville apparatus left the scene at 11:15 A.M.

One hundred ninety firefighters operated five engines, two aerials, six tankers, two deck guns and 10 handlines to extinguish the fire. Approximately 1.9 million gallons of water was used to extinguish the fire, with 1.3 million gallons pumped from the two nearby lakes and 600,000 gallons shuttled to the scene by tankers. Damage was estimated at $750,000 to the building and $1 million to the contents. Numerous sets of bunker gear and several hundred feet of hose were damaged by the paint and stains in the runoff water. There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Firefighters contained the fire to the 18,000-square foot-portion of the warehouse, which housed 33 truckloads of product. Over 100,000 empty five-gallon plastic buckets with lids, over 2,300 empty wooden pallets, over 2,500 various size containers of stains, more than 20,000 aerosol paint cans and nearly 38,000 containers of latex paint. The larger portion of the warehouse, also containing paints and solvents, was saved, suffering only smoke and water damage.

The fire department had current pre-plans of the buildings. In March 2006, the entire department conducted a walk-through of all 10 buildings in the complex. The fire occurred in the smallest of them.

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.