8-Hour Fire in Carton Storage

8-Hour Fire in Carton Storage


An early morning fire of suspicious origin destroyed nearly a quarter million dollars worth of cardboard produce cartons in Salinas, Calif.

At 1:23 a.m. last June 25, the Monterey County Communications Center received a report of a structural fire at 1069 Growers St. at the Growers Vacuum Cool plant. The first alarm assignment of the Salinas City Fire Department consisted of three engines, a ladder truck and a rescue truck under the command of Battalion Chief A.L. Barton.

Upon arrival of the first units, the fire was spreading in a 130 X 50-foot storage area of flatttened cardboard cartons stacked about 20 feet high on pallets. Flames were leaping high into the night sky as the first hose lines were laid. The rapid spread of the fire was a direct result of the narrow spacing between pallets and a steady 10-mph wind.

More manpower called

Chief, Paul A. Mehringer arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and assumed command of the fire. Additional manpower was called and the 85-foot elevating platform was summoned along with another pumper. However, the platform was not needed since a concentrated effort with monitor nozzles and large hand lines was adequate to hold the fire in check. A forklift was used to remove some of the pallets close by, but extreme heat and excessive weight of the pallets, due to water absorption, forced this effort to be abandoned.

A total of 30 fire fighters battled the blaze, which burned nearly eight hours and smoldered several days.

Difficulties at the scene included railroad tracks (which necessitated laying most hose lines by hand), locked gates and minimum access to the area since Grower St. is a dead end. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company, when advised of the fire, said no trains would be through until that afternoon. ‘Phis prompted digging to place hose lines under the tracks.

The first-in engine was 331, which made an attempt to fight the fire with l-1/2-inch live lines from Harkins Road. The rapid spread of the fire created additional heat and smoke and made it necessary to lay two 3inch lines, reduced to 2-1/2-inch hand lines (all of whiqh have 250-gpm fog nozzles). These lines were later hooked up to a monitor nozzle on the northeast corner of the fire. A third 3-inch line was then hand-laid across the railroad tracks to the east side of the fire while Engine 331 was spotted at a hydrant on Harkins Road.

Flames consume cardboard produce cartons stored flat on pallets with narrow spacing between pallets in Salinas, Calif. Fire was fought by 30 men.

Upon its arrival, Engine 312 was directed to lay a 3-inch line to a yard hydrant north of the fire on Growers St. This line was then wyed off into 21/2-inch lines to fight the fire on the west side.

Engine 342 laid two 3-inch lines from the east side of the fire to a hydrant at Harkins Rd. and Dayton St. One of these lines went to the south end of the fire while the other one was wyed into two 2-1/2inch lines, supplying a monitor nozzle on the east side of the fire.

When Engine 321 arrived, it stretched a 3-inch from the fire to Engine 312 at a yard hydrant on Growers St. This line protected another carton storage area on the north end of the fire area. Engine 321 them proceeded to Fire Station 3 to fill in for that response area.

Ladder 315 and Rescue 337 were not used except for the manpower to help man hose lines.

This was the second fire of this type within a week. A similar fire, on June23, destroyed cardboard produce cartons and a vehicle, at the R.T. Englund Company causing $15,000 damage. The owner of the cartons at the Growers St. fire was the Vegetable Growers Supply Co., which was insured for the $200,000 loss. This was the sixth in a series of seven fires of suspicious origin directed at agricultural companies in the Salinas area in recent months.

Captain Inspector George Harris of the Salinas City Fire Department said a witness to the fire stated he saw a “flash” among the pallets immediately prior to the fire.

At the R.T. Englund fire, several incendiary igniters that failed to go off were found. These consisted of a cigarette tucked into a book of matches. An empty container of a flammable fluid was also found in the vicinity of the fire.

Master streams wet down remains of cardboard carton storage pile. The debris smoldered for several days. Hand line was used effectively from overhead conveyor.

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