Five Alarms for Ice Cream Plant Fire
Blaze in Building Used for Manufacture and Storage of Ice Cream “Gets Away“—Ammonia Troublesome
THE fire described in this article of the series on administration occurred in a large eastern city, with a modern fire department.
The property involved is shown in the sketch herewith.
The group of buildings affected by the fire included the following:
A large brick ice cream plant mainly of two stories height, wdth five extensions employed for various purposes such as engine room, cold storage apparatus, freezing tanks.
The sketch show’s the layout of the various units.
Directly across a spur line railroad were a warehouse, kicked up by another frame warehouse three stories in height; a 5-story brick hotel building of old construction; a 6-story factory building with various occupancies on the different floors. This latter building was also of brick construction. Being of great age, and filled with comparatively heavy machinery, it constituted a serious hazard once fire reached it.
To the rear of the ice cream plant was a public garage one story in height and at the time of the fire was well filled with vehicles.
Near the receiving end of the plant was a group of four fuel oil tanks of approximately 40,000 capacity.
The department in the city in which this fire occurred consists of 18 engine companies, 5 hose companies, 12 truck companies and one water tower.
Response to the first five alarms at the location of this fire is as follows (company numbers assigned for convenience only) ; First alarm, Engine Cos. Nos. 1, 2, and 3; Hose Co. No. 1; Ladder Co. No. 1 (aerial truck) ; Ladder Co. No. 2.
Second alarm, Engine Cos. Nos. 4, 5 and 6; Hose Co. No. 2 and Ladder Cos. Nos. 3 and 4.
Third alarm, Engine Cos. Nos. 7, 8 and 9; and Ladder Cos. 5 and 6 (Ladder 5 being equipped with aerial truck).
Fourth alarm. Engine Cos. Nos. 10, 11 and 12; Ladder Co. No. 7.
Fifth alarm, Engine Cos. Nos. 13, 14 and 15, and Ladder Co. No. 8.
All ladder companies with the exception of those noted as aerial trucks, were equipped with city service trucks.
All pumpers were either 700 or 750 gallon per minute capacity and motor driven.
Water pressure was excellent in the neighborhood of the fire, there being plenty of hydrants on good sized mains and approximately 55 pounds in the mains at all times.
The fire apparently started around 1 o’clock in the morning of a very hot summer night and had been burning for about an hour when discovered at 2 o’clock. At the time of the discovery, when made by a patrolman, the engine room and the cold storage room were well ablaze.
The officer noted a strong odor of ammonia and upon investigation discovered the fire.
A strong breeze was blowdng from the southeast, carrying the ammonia fumes to the rear of the old hotel building, the rear windows of which w’ere mostly open.
A box was pulled and the first alarm assignment responded. Engine Company No. 1 was stationed at hydrant No. 4 and a single line stretched to along the spur track to operate on fire in engine room.
Engine Co. No. 2 was placed at hydrant No. 5 and a single line stretched to the same building through separating room to operate on rear of engine room fire.
Engine Co. No. 3 W’as placed at hydrant No. 1 and a single line stretched up the alley between the hotel building and the 6-story factory building, but this line could not get near enough to operate on the fire on account of the ammonia fumes.
This line was subsequently shifted to rear of plant and operated through pan room to check the fire from entering the laboratory office and ice storage room.
Noting the danger of the ammonia fumes to the occupants of the hotel, members of both truck companies were sent to this building to clear out the guests.
The remaining members of the second truck company were assigned to assist the various lines in entering the fire building.
The fire apparently had gained far too much headway for the first alarm assignment to handle so a second alarm was transmitted by the battalion chief present.
About the same time the second alarm assignment arrived there was an explosion at the rear of the ice cream plant, apparently in the refrigerating plant room, and immediately thereafter the ammonia became too dense in the ice cream plant for the men to operate in any of the rooms.
The various lines withdrew and endeavored to operate from a distance through the ice cream plant main building but little headway was made.
Engine 4 was stationed at hydrant No. 6 and a single line stretched around the east end of the plant, operating across the frame platform onto one of the buildings which was well ablaze.
Engine 5 was placed at hydrant No. 7 and a single line stretched alongside of the line from Engine 4.
The fire continued to increase in intensity and it was evident that unless quick action was secured and effective work done the entire ice cream plant would he lost.
At this time the chief of the department “rolled in” and noting the seriousness of the situation transmitted third and fourth alarms.
Before the apparatus on the third and fourth alarms arrived, fire had jumped the railroad tracks and entered the hotel building.
The warehouse, too, alongside the hotel building was seriously endangered by the intensity of the fire.
The detailed assignment of lines from Engine Cos. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 on the third and fourth alarms is not known. But the general procedure was to operate from the w’indward side of the fire.
Attempts were made to cover the exposed warehouse and hotel building at the rear, but these efforts were to no avail.
Fire W’as gaining headway in the hotel building and lines from the third and fourth alarm companies W’ere stretched into the hotel building but were not able to hold their positions on account of the intense fumes entering the building from the ice cream plant at the rear.
A little later the warehouse was seen to take fire and efforts were then directed from east end of tinwarehouse to hold the fire. In view of the fact that ammonia fumes did not seriously bother the men at this point comparatively satisfactory progress was made. But the hotel fire increased in intensity and soon the 6-story factory building alongside was seen to become involved.
A fifth alarm was sent in at this time, bringing out in addition to the apparatus from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th alarms, Engine Cos. Nos. 13, 14 and 15 and Ladder Co. No. 8.
When this apparatus arrived the warehouse was fully ablaze, the hotel building was beyond saving, the 6-story factory building was involved and the freight warehouse to the rear of the burning warehouse was also in serious danger.
The wind seemed to die down somewhat and apparently the ammonia supply was being depicted for it was possible for the men to get at closer range.
When it w’as found that the ice cream plant was beyond saving, the main efforts were directed toward holding the fire in the 6-story factory building and the railroad freight warehouse.
Concentration of lines in both of these buildings resulted in saving the railroad freight warehouse with comparatively small damage. The 6-story factory building, in view of its old construction, its heavy occupancy and the oil soaked condition of its floors, could not be saved.
The fire did not get beyond the block of buildings shown.
When the fire was finally brought under control, it was found that the ice cream plant was completely destroyed, the garage to the rear of it was only scorched, the 5-story hotel and 6-story factory were destroyed as well as the warehouse alongside of the railroad tracks. The railroad warehouse was saved with but slight damage.
Fire did not spread to the depot nor to other buildings surrounding the block shown above.
Nor did the fire reach the fuel oil tanks at the read of the ice cream plant.
The Editor’s ideas on the handling of this fire will be given in the next issue of this journal.