Mutual Aid and Big Streams
A blaze that destroyed seven wood frame buildings in Rockville, Conn., required the use of numerous master streams by volunteers from 14 communities. The buildings, in the oldest part of town, were two or three stories high. Some were connected and others were separated by 8 to 10-foot alleys.
A street box at Vernon Avenue and West Main Street was pulled at 4:40 a.m. last February 20, and this automatically activated a horn to call the volunteer firemen. At the same time, the officer on the desk at police headquarters, where the box also was received, transmitted the alarm on the Rockville Fire Department’s home radio alerting system.
At 4:41 a.m., Chief Donald Maguda was on the way to the scene in his car. Upon seeing a red glow in the sky, he radioed the Tolland County Mutual Aid Headquarters for a second alarm. As he turned into West Main Street, Maguda saw that the entire block was involved, and he radioed for a third alarm at 4:42 a.m.
Ladder pipe rigged
At just about the same time, Rockville Engine 40, a 750-gpm pumper, laid parallel 2½ and 3-inch lines from a hydrant on West Main Street east of Vernon Avenue to the center of the West Main Street block. Ladder 40, which came in right after the engine, used these lines to feed its ladder pipe.
The third unit to arrive was Rockville’s newest apparatus, EQ-41, a Squrt with a 1000-gpm pump. This apparatus received water from 750-gpm Engine 41, which had laid parallel 2 1/2-inch lines and then tied into a hydrant at Vernon Avenue and Brooklyn Street. EQ-41, positioned on the Vemon Avenue side of the blaze, delivered a stream from the nozzle on its 54-foot articulated boom and also supplied l 1/2-inch lines.
Meanwhile, Engine 42 dropped a 2 1/2-inch line at a West Main Street hydrant east of the fire and stretched to West Main and Vernon to put into operation both a deluge set and 1 1/2inch lines. Vernon 1000-gpm EngineTanker 55 picked up Engine 42’s line and pumped at the hydrant. Engine 42 also stretched a supply line to the hydrant at West Main and Vernon and Tolland Engine-Tanker 41 supplied a third 2 1/2-inh line to Engine 42 from a hydrant on Union Street.
While Rockville’s initial attack was being set up, Maguda, Captain John Shea and Vernon policemen (Rockville is part of the Town of Vernon) went into the buildings to awaken sleeping occupants and get them out. Through these men’s efforts, everyone escaped safely, although 36 families lost their homes.
Within 15 minutes after the alarm, fire was raging through six buildings. Efforts were made to stop the fire from extending to the Ladd & Hall Furniture Warehouse, building No. 8 on the map. Eagleville’s 100-foot Ladder 2 and Ellington’s 3000-gallon Tanker 41, with a preconnected deluge set arrived by 5:14 a.m. and assisted EQ-41 in trying to save the wood frame warehouse. Engine tanker 57 from Somers drafted from the Hokanum River and supplied Tanker 41.
Tanker 40, with a 500-gpm pump, from Tolland fed Ladder 2 with parallel 2½-inch lines from a hydrant on Brooklyn Street, and Ellington 1000-gpm Engine-Tanker 56 from a hydrant on West Main Street also supplied Ladder 2 with parallel 2 1/2-inch lines. Engine-Tanker 56 also fed a second deluge set at West Main and Vernon, as well as Tolland Engine-Tanker 40, which set up at the intersection later with a deluge set.
Elevating platform arrives
While Ladder 40 and Engine 40 were attempting to stop the fire on the West Main Street side. South Windsor’s new 80-foot elevating platform arrived to assist them. All efforts were too late except for building No. 87, which was saved from fire, but an explosion against the east side of the building weakened it so much that it was condemned.
Engine 40, using a preconnected deluge set, was supplied water by EngineTanker 55 and Engine 1 from North Manchester. Engine 1 drafted from the Hockanum River in the rear of the buildings and with Engine 40 also supplied the elevating platform with 2½inch lines.
Other units were sent to patrol residential areas to the north. Vernon’s Engine-Tanker 42 extinguished two roof fires on West Main Street that started from wind-carried debris. Engine-Tanker 51 and Service 41 were dispatched to patrol the Rockville General Hospital area and Village Street.
Communications post set up
Rescue 40 arrived from Tolland at 4:52 a.m. and set up a communications post. Chief Dispatcher Ronald Littell from the Tolland County Mutual Aid Center, who arrived at 4:45 a.m., assisted the Rockville chief by directing all incoming mutual aid apparatus to the scene and telling them exactly where to operate. The water company increased the pressure in the mains in time to avoid any water problems.
The fire was declared under control at 7:11 a.m., and our last unit left the scene at 9:30 p.m. A total of 8250 feet of 2 1/2-inch, 2075 feet of 3-inch, and 2150 feet of l 1/2-inch hose was used to fight this fire.
Journal Inquirer photo by Joseph H. Saternis