No one could have foreseen that on August 26, 2015 our fire department would battle one of the most devastating fires in the 150 year history of our city. At 5:16 pm smoke was reported coming from the third floor at 702 Wyoming Ave in the Sandone Tire warehouse. Engine Co. 4, Engine Co. 8, Rescue Co. 1, Truck Co. 2 and Car 21 were dispatched. Not wasting time, the assistant chief activated the SRN which added Engine Co. 10, Engine Co. 2. A short time later a second alarm was requested which added Engine Co. 7, Car 30, Car 27, Car 26, Car 22, and Car 5 in addition he requested Ladder #6 from Dunmore. First arriving A-Shift companies would be faced with a fire in a almost city block long seven story former cold storage warehouse that currently stores tires. Smoke was seen coming from three sides of the structure and coming from 3 floors. Firefighters made repeated attempts to try to find the fire but all they would encounter is the thick black smoke from the burning tires. The incident would be upgraded once more when C-Shift was recalled which sent fresh manpower, Truck Co. 4, Engine 1 and Engine 11 to the scene.
One of the most unnerving phrases to a firefighter especially for a chief is MAYDAY. At 7:15 the officer of Engine Co. 4, a nearly 30 year veteran in the department, reported "they can't punch in any further because we are low on air and are making our way out". at 7:17 pm a mayday was reported, as the crew was making their way out some tires fell knocking them off the hose line they were following. The RIT team was deployed and by 7:21 pm all firefighters were accounted for and in the hands of EMS. Thankfully there were no serious injuries as a result of this mayday.
There was a solid two hours of offensive attempts made to try to get a handle on this fire including trying to flood the fire floor with foam, but eventually the decision had to be made to change to a defensive mode. The buildings size and potential to consume the surrounding buildings was taken into account so apparatus were moved into safer positions, and additional ladder companies from neighboring fire departments were requested to come to the scene.
Conditions of the fire changed from light tan smoke to thicker grey to rapidly moving thick black smoke to eventually the building's roof failing and flames leaping high into the night sky. Three ladder trucks poured water from the front of the building and two from the rear as well as multiple unmanned portable deluge guns. Other companies were tasked with cooling the roofs of Coopers Seafood House which was directly behind the building and Freidmann Electric which was across the street. Conditions rapidly deteriorated culminating in a series of spectacular collapses of the left, right and rear of the building.
As daylight shone over the scene it revealed the shell and inner skeleton of this once massive structure. Exhausted crews being replaced by fresh men, and with an estimated 5.5 million gallons were poured from above and from below to try to get a handle on this conflagration. An additional 3 million used in the days to follow, it is estimated that there were 35,000 to 50,000 tires burned . The fire was halted at the showroom as a result of the efforts of two ariel streams and one portable deluge gun that were focused on it. in addition Coopers and Friedmanns suffered only minor damage.
Even though most companies would leave the scene a few would remain wetting down the smoldering rubble, the incident was not closed until September 3 at 8:43 am.
It is a blessing that as severe as this fire was and with the dramatic events that unfolded during that everyone was able to go home safely.
Local #60 would like to thank the following departments for their help during the incident - Dunmore, Elmhurst, Greenwood, Dickson City, Clarks Summit, Throop, Taylor, Covington, Chinchilla, Olyphant, Wilson and Comm. Center.
The Officer in Charge was Assistant Chief J. White
(Photos by Bill Boock)
(Photo by Jack Gaffney)