Explosion, Fire Rip Through Pennsylvania Carpet Outlet

Jay K. Bradish recalls a fire that tested more than 100 Pennsylvania firefighters.


CITY OF EASTON FIRE DEPARTMENT Chief Frank Chisesi Personnel: 44 career firefighters Apparatus: Three engines, one reserve engine, one tower ladder, one rescue unit, two chiefs' vehicles and two rescue boats Population: 28,000 Area: 4.5 square miles At about 7:30 P.M. on Saturday...


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CITY OF EASTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
Chief Frank Chisesi
Personnel: 44 career firefighters
Apparatus: Three engines, one reserve engine, one tower ladder, one rescue unit, two chiefs' vehicles and two rescue boats
Population: 28,000
Area: 4.5 square miles

At about 7:30 P.M. on Saturday, Nov. 20, 1993, the City of Easton, PA, Fire Department received several telephone calls reporting an explosion and fire at the Craft Rug Mills on Line Street. The 50,000-square-foot structure, built in 1946, was an L-shaped, one-story building 337 feet by 217 feet, constructed of masonry brick walls with a wooden bowstring truss roof covered with rolled roofing.

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Photo by Express Times
A 50,000-square-foot rug mill, housed in an L-shaped structure measuring 337 feet by 217 feet with a bow string roof, burned in Easton, PA.

Engines 2011, 2012 and 2013 and Ladder 2021, an 85-foot tower ladder, were dispatched under the command of Captain Terry Foulk with seven firefighters. Responding units encountered heavy smoke four blocks away. While enroute, the units received a call about an automobile accident with the car rolled over onto its roof. Foulk requested mutual aid from the Wilson Boro Fire Department to respond to the accident scene. Wilson Boro in turn asked the Forks Township Fire Department to respond to the accident with its hydraulic rescue tool.

The Easton crew on first-in Engine 2013 found the entire east side of the building fully involved. Engine 2011 stretched a 300-foot five-inch supply line to Engine 2013, which was positioned on the west side of the structure, from a hydrant on Line Street. These two crews and the crew from Tower 2021 placed a 21/2-inch pre-connect and one 13/4-inch pre-connect into operation in an effort to cut off the fire spread into the showroom section of the building.

At this point, Foulk requested a general alarm to recall all off-duty firefighters and Deputy Chief Gerald Flavelle Jr. to the scene. Engine 2012 laid a 500-foot five-inch supply line from another hydrant on Line Street to the west side of the building. Crews placed a deck gun, two 1 3/4-inch pre-connects and a 2 1/2-inch preconnect into operation. Within five minutes of the firefighters' arrival, a 100-foot section of the building's roof collapsed. Tower 2021 was set up on the west side of the building and supplied by a 100-foot five-inch supply line from Engine 2012. Easton reserve Engine 2014 laid a 500-foot five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Iron and Grant streets and was positioned on the east side of the building. This crew laid 450 feet of three- inch supply line to the east side of the structure to operate its portable monitor.

At 7:46 P.M., before completing the mutual aid assignment at the motor vehicle accident, Wilson Boro responded to the fire scene with two engines and 22 firefighters. Additional mutual aid was requested from the Williams Township Fire Department at 7:59. Engines 2811, 2812, 2814, 2831 and 2841 responded with seven officers and 26 firefighters. These units were staged and their manpower was used for laying and operating hoselines.

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Photo by Express Times
A 20- to 25-mph wind fanned the fire throughout the building, which contained a heavy load of carpet and foam padding.


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Photo by Express Times
The use of tankers and a drafting site were necessary due to a lack of water in the area. More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene.

Flavelle arrived on the scene at 8 P.M. and took command. The fire was rapidly spreading into the rest of the building due to 20- to 25-mph westerly winds and the heavy fire load of carpet and foam padding stored in the building. With water pressure on the hydrants becoming very low, Flavelle requested mutual aid tankers to respond.

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Photo by Express Times
Firefighters were hampered in establishing an adequate water supply.
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