Garage Fire Perils Exposures
Fire that rapidly swept through an auto agency garage and destroyed an adjacent house in Sharon, Pa., was brought under control with two aerial streams and a deluge set. Five neighboring communities sent apparatus to assist the Sharon Fire Department in fighting the fire that caused a loss estimated at about $500,000.
As Captain John Reiter and five men, the entire crew at the Central Station, responded with two engines and an aerial ladder on the alarm at 6:53 p.m. last July 20, they could see flames rising from DeForeest’s BuickCadillac Company at 72 South Main Avenue. At this sight, Reiter immediately ordered all off-duty fire fighters recalled.
A 2V2-inch line stretched by the first engine from a hydrant at South Main Avenue and Washington Street deteriorated under the heat before it could be charged. The second engine laid other lines so that a deluge set and a ladder pipe on our aerial could begin to protect exposures and try to confine the fire, which already had spread to the house at 96 South Main Avenue, only a few feet from the garage.
Exposed homes protected
In response to the captain’s call for aid, the Farrell Fire Department sent a pumper, which hooked up to a hydrant at Sterling Avenue and Moose Court to protect exposed homes in that area.
At the time of the first alarm, I was at a meeting of Mercer County fire chiefs in Sharpsville to discuss a mutual aid practice session. Upon reaching the fire about 7:15, I asked for assistance from Hickory Township, Sharpsville, Wheatland and Brookfield Township, our neighbor across the line in Ohio.
Hickory Township dispatched its new elevating platform and an engine, both from its main station, and an emergency unit from its Patagonia Station. The pumper took a hydrant at Sterling Avenue and Washington Street and supplied lines to the elevating platform which was positioned about midway in the block on Sterling Avenue.
Relay set up
The Wheatland engine caught a hydrant two blocks south of the fire and relayed to the Brookfield engine, which fed Sharon’s ladder pipe and several hand lines. Sharpsville’s engine hooked up to a hydrant two blocks west of the fire and pumped several hand lines. The Patagonia crew from Hickory Township worked with Sharon fire fighters on the South Main Avenue and Moose Court sides of the fire.
The fire was brought under control about 9:30 p.m., and the mutual aid companies started picking up about an hour later. By midnight, everyone had returned to quarters except for a watch crew, which was maintained at the scene until 5 p.m. July 21.
The DeForeest garage and about 10 new cars were destroyed along with a home at 85 Sterling Avenue in the rear of 89 Sterling Avenue. The house at the latter address, which also was adjacent to the garage, received relatively light heat, fire and water damage. The house at 96 South Main Avenue was extensively damaged by fire and water. The homes at 70, 76, 80, 82 and 86 Sterling Avenue, all on the opposite side of the avenue from the fire, were damaged on the outside by heat but received no interior damage.
Four men injured
Within half an hour after the first alarm, Captain Reiter and one of the men in his crew, Fireman William Unrue, were in the Sharon General Hospital emergency room for treatment of heat exhaustion. Fireman Kenneth Feigert, who drove the first pumper, was treated in the emergency room for burns on his back and shoulders that he received through his turnout coat while operating his pump on South Main Avenue. Captain Joseph Hilko was treated for a puncture wound in a foot.
The fire built up a heat intensity that caused the loss of several lengths of 2’/2-inch hose, and Sharon’s Engine 1 was scorched along the driver’s side. Plastic lenses on warning lights melted on both this pumper and the department’s new ladder truck. Even some of the face shields worn by Sharon firemen were warped by the heat.
From talking with some of the men who were working in the garage, I learned that the fire started above an overhead door on the South Main Avenue side of the garage.