Suspicious Vermont Pepsi Cola Bottling Plant Fire Challenges Firefighters

Firefighters from Brattleboro, Vermont responded to a reported building fire at the Leader Distribution Pepsi Cola bottling plant in Brattleboro shortly before 3:30 AM Sunday, June 6, 2004. Responding units saw heavy smoke and fire from nearly 1/2 mile away, striking a 2nd alarm enroute.

First arriving units found a large storage area on the back side of the building fully engulfed, with flames shooting more than thirty feet into the air. Engine 1 and Ladder 1 initiated an attack with Engine 2 laying a supply line from the hydrant more than 1000' away.

The fire had extended into the roof of the structure. Firefighters utilized Ladder 1 to gain access to the roof, and used saws to find pockets of fire which they quickly extinguished. Intense heat from the fire melted skylights 30 feet away from the fire, as well as the plastic trim on gas pumps and streetlights 30-40 feet away on the ground.

The storage area contained nearly 700 wooden and plastic pallets, as well as soda vending machines. An underground propane tank with its valve located near the center of the fire was a major concern. Firefighters used hose lines to cool the valve until access could be gained to shut it down.

The rear, free standing concrete block wall of the building was severely damaged, with the blocks disintegrating and a noticeable bow resulting from the heat of the fire.

The fire was brought under control by the 40 firefighters on scene shortly after 4:30 AM. Mutual aid companies from Putney, Vt. and West Chesterfield, N.H. were called to cover Brattleboro stations.

No one was injured in the blaze, which has been classified as suspicious. The fire is still under investigation by the Vermont State Police.