Collective Trio Provides Strong Plant Protection

Collective Trio Provides Strong Plant Protection

The Marshfield, Wis., Fire Department, plus the Roddis Fire Brigade of Roddis Plywood Corporation, plus automatic sprinklers, are a combination “devoutly to be desired,” to quote George Corneveaux in charge of the vast wood working plant’s fire safety.

The triumvirate proved its worth on June 15, 1950, when fire broke out in the basement repair shop of the sprawling, three-story frame structure soon after 4:00 A.M.

A fire alarm sounded at 4:44 A.M. for the blaze, which must have burned undetected for half an hour, according to Corneveaux. It “kicked off” 32 sprinkler heads which successfully knocked down the blaze, which was working its way into the core mill above the shop. Loss to the multi-million plant was held to $10,000. Credit for the stop and extinguishment was also divided between the Marshfield Fire Department, and the plant Fire Brigade, both of which swung into action.

Several disastrous fires had marred the long history of the corporation since it settled in Marshfield in 1891. The turning point of safety came in 1948 when the local volunteer fire department was replaced by a full paid organization and the Roddis Fire Brigade was formed. The latter worked and trained with the then municipal fire fighters under Fire Chief Rod Porter who was later succeeded by Chief Richard A. Houren.

Panic—the Killer Merrymakers were gaily dancing at a San Antonio Fiesta in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 18, 1953, when fire broke out in an adjacent building. Panic gripped the dancers and there was a wild stampede down the single, narrow stairway from the dance hall to the street. Fifty-six persons were killed and sixty injured. Most of the dead were women, who were crushed to death or suffocated when the bodies piled up in the narrow stairway. Firemen watch a woman dangling momentarily after she had leaped from the window above. Just after the picture was taken, the woman dropped to her death.Fireman found this mass of humanity—some injured, some dead—at a landing on the stairway.

George Corneveaux, the plant insurance manager, reports to date approximately $75,000 has been spent on fire safety to protect the property that would cost $4 million to replace, not to speak of the payroll so important to the city of Marshfield.

Corneveau believes the plant Brigade is the only one in its area. It has a day and night shift, with a dozen men in each. It is augmented by maintenance men, watchmen and other skilled personnel, all trained in fire protection. Each shift gets two hours training weekly. The Brigade ranks are kept filled by men chosen for their skills, their availability, and place of residence, offshift men must live close enough to the plant to respond to fire alarms promptly.

It usually takes the city department 1 minute and 40 seconds to reach the plant on alarms, Corneveaux reports, and upon arrival the professional fire fighters take charge.

The plant Brigade has a 500 GPM pumper, with 1500 ft. of 2 1/2in. hose, ladders, masks and other equipment. It is housed in a two-stall, concrete fire station. The sprinkler system is connected to the auto-call system. An alarm in the mill automatically alerts the city department. Sprinklers are supplied by an independent 47,000-gallon elevated tank and there is a new 165,000-gallon reservoir and concrete pump house with 1000 GPM pump, located a safe distance from a possible blaze, to keep the plant’s water system at effective pressure.

The plant brigade is available to aid the city fire fighters in an emergency; in fact, it has already seen action in this respect.

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