On the evening of Wednesday, December 4th, 2002 the Salisbury Fire Department responded to what would be the largest fire in its history, a 5 alarm industrial building fire.
The 1000 X 200, 3 story building had been vacant for several years with no operational alarm or sprinkler system. Pre-incident planning and evaluations indicated that this particular building was extremely unsafe for interior operations.
The first companies to arrive found that the fire had a significant hold of an elevator shaft on all three levels and had vented through the roof. The fire quickly spread throughout the building fanned by the steady 10 MPH winds.
Under supervision of Fire Chief Sam Brady and Assistant Chief Rick Fesperman the incident went to five alarms. 75 firefighters and 6 ladder companies from Salisbury, China Grove, South Salisbury, and Rockwell City operated on the fire as did 6 engine companies from Salisbury, Granite Quarry, and Spencer.
It is estimated that at the height of the fire companies poured 5000 GPM into the fully involved building and consumed nearly 3 million gallons of water overall.
Throughout the incident the region was struck by a serious winter storm that brought in 3 inches of snow and 3 inches of ice that downed trees and power lines in the region. Power outages were extensive. Firefighters on the scene of this 5 alarm fire dodged several snapped power poles and electrical wires that were downed due to the weight of the ice. The ice also coated the extended aerial ladders and encapsulated the hose lines on the ground. Mutual aid departments covering the fire and the weather related incidents included Granite Quarry FD, Spencer FD, China Grove FD, Locke FD, South Salisbury FD, Landis FD, Franklin FD, and Rockwell City FD,
The Command staff brought in a city transit bus for on-scene rehab so that firefighters could escape the 15 degree wind chill. Also providing assistance were the local Chapter of the Red Cross, the Rowan County Rescue Squad, and Rowan County EMS. The City's Fleet Services fueled the apparatus on scene and addressed the mechanical aspects of the apparatus.