The day after Thanksgiving in 2012 will be remembered in the history books of the Sullivan Fire District for some time…. firefighters literally had their hands full for a few hours with a large building fire, fed by several hundred gallons of diesel fuel.
I was preparing to take my nap Friday afternoon, in order to return to work rested up, when the tones dropped for a boiler fire next to a business, two miles west of Sullivan on the North Service Road. I didnt recognize the address, but put my shoes back on, grabbed my camera, and headed for the truck, with Missy already waiting for me at the door. Figured I would snap a few photos and then come back and get my nap in still…I have had an agreement with Jim Bartle of the Independent News to photograph fire calls for the paper when I didnt have time to go get a truck and respond like in this case, as he and Mark Hilse are not always available to go and take photos themselves. After nearly forty years on the department, there are times I just dont feel like going to a call and working a fire, times when I`m on pain medication and dont wish to risk another injury or making an existing one worse, so I`ll simply grab my camera and go snap a few photos for the paper and then leave when I want. Fire scene photography is something I have shot and enjoyed for many years as well, getting my start as the fire department photographer soon after I joined the fire department nearly forty years ago.
As I turned west on the North Service Road, I observed heavy brown smoke high in the sky. Pumper 854, manned by our full time crew of paid firefighters, caught up to me about Hwy WW, and I pulled over to let them pass by, then got in behind them and followed them to the scene…. the former KR Wilson Contracting business, now known as Breckenridge Materials. This is what I saw on arrival…
…I parked my truck out of the way and walked over to the right side to photograph the fire and building, without all the obstructions in the way….
Damon Sumpter was the Captain on 854 today and on arrival he advised Franklin County to re-dispatch this as a Commercial Structure Fire, which is a first alarm….which brings in mutual aid…fire trucks and manpower from surrounding departments, which would mean Bourbon and St Clair assisting on the first alarm. I zoomed in and photographed the heavy fire on the east side of the building…
…there was fire creeping around the northeast corner of the building, and on the move which indicated it was being fed by a flowing stream of some type of fuel….and at times, when the smoke lifted from the gusty winds out of the northwest, one could see a very large steel tank in the background…it soon became obvious that an unknown combustible fuel was feeding this fire and making it very intense and hot, obvious that this would become a fire fought by foam additives to the water…and lots of water in great quantities…
Damon and John Wayne Strothcamp pulled the preconnect line from the pumper as Nolan added to the line, then John carried the hose out into the parking lot area halfway to the fire….…and then began to straighten the hoseline while Nolan prepared the pump for foam operations….
….this truck has foam capabilities built in, but it was obvious a greater supply of foam would be required, so Damon advised Franklin County to contact the Fire Departments who store great quantities of foam within this area and have them respond additional foam to the scene…. he then joined John on the preconnect and prepared to attack the heavy fire on the east end of the building.
Bourbon Fire Department arrived seconds after Sullivan, several of their firefighters manning a pumper, tanker, and rescue truck, and began pulling hose from their pumper immediately, setting up drop tanks for water shuttles, and preparing for foam as well…in the next few photos you will see some of their personnel, they wear black gear, working on those tasks….an ambulance from North Crawford County also arrived on scene with Bourbon FD….their personnel initially assisting with firefighting details as most of their medics are also firefighters elsewhere…..below Bourbon firefighters are seen after stretching out their line below and checking with Damon before John and Damon begin their attack, as the flames intensify in the background….
...John then grabs the nozzle and bleeds the hoseline of air while Damon checks his gear and prepares for battle….
…and begin their attack with water initially….
As Damon and John began putting the wet stuff on the hot stuff, the hot stuff began intensifying and getting even hotter, the flames higher, the heat ever increasing and the diesel fuel flowing more, down the south side of the building….you also see the lone Bourbon firefighter manning his hoseline and using his arm to signal to his pump operator that he should go ahead and charge his hoseline, which would enable him to join the fight with Damon and John….
…there are also some company trucks parked on the left side of the photos above, one dump truck closest to the firefighters and two cement trucks on the other side of it…the diesel fuel was running down the side of the building in front of the trucks and the flames were beginning to grow higher….
…John and Damon moved in closer to attack the growing flames, and it soon became obvious that the water was having little effect on the flames due to the diesel fuel feeding the fire….
….it was about this time that a Tanker Task Force as well as a Second Alarm was requested. The location of this fire was West Sullivan, which now has an operating water supply, with a water tower not too far behind the building and pressurized hydrants within half a mile that tankers could easily access and fill at. In the meantime, the fire only continued to intensify….
…and it was obvious that Damon and John didnt have foam in their hoseline yet either, the fire intensifying in front of them….
Above, you can see where John and Damon are knocking down the flames with the hose stream, yet in the next photo, the flames are clearly seen re-igniting due to the diesel fuel….and still Bourbon`s firefighter waited for water as Damon and John held their ground….
…I remember thinking that Damon and John were likely growing tired of moving that nozzle back and forth, putting out the flames on the left side……then working the nozzle over to the right side to knock down those flames…only to see the flames reignite on the left and have to start all over again, back and forth, back and forth…….below they aggressively decide to pursue the fire…
…only to look back and see the flames they had just knocked down on the left side, now reigniting with even more intensity…….
…and Bourbon continued to wait for water as Damon and John advanced their line once again….
…and moved in closer to try and keep the fire somewhat contained as it was growing higher and closer to the company trucks parked next to the building……by this time, I looked back to the trucks and observed Bourbon firefighters having problems with the foam eductor…like our department, their older trucks dont have the foam capability built into the pump panel, so you have to break the attack line out away from the pumper, and install a foam eductor into the line…on one end there is a plastic or rubber tube that goes into a bucket of foam, it sucks the foam from the bucket into the hoseline at the other end of the device, and oila !!…you have foam…sometimes they can clog up over years of no usage and then when you need them, they wont work…
…and while it may appear that several minutes are going by here between frames, I was actually shooting quite rapidly so these images are only seconds apart…
…the bad thing about waiting for foam to begin to work through the pump and into the hoselines… is the wait time…. possibly due to trying to figure out the right percentage to dial in at the pump to produce a concentrated enough amount for it to work and knock down the fire.
Sometimes the pump operator is left alone at the truck and has his hands full with several details critical to maintaining water flow to the hoselines alone…. in this case, Nolan was helping to set up a water supply to back up the one thousand gallon tank on the truck and the work involved in setting up a drop tank or nursing operation for tankers can be alot of work for one guy, a big reason the job of driving and operating a truck is taken for granted by so many firefighters who would rather be on the nozzle and entering the burning building, where the action is at….believe me, there is quite a bit of work and action involved in operating a truck, too. Many would argue tho, that the real action is on the nozzle.
It was obvious when finally the foam began to activate and become more effective in controlling the flames….
…much to everyone`s relief, I`m sure….
…and Bourbon`s lone hoseman finally gave up waiting for the line to be charged and joined the fight with Damon and John….no doubt that Bourbon was experiencing problems either at the pumper or more likely with the foam eductor, which is a common problem with thousands of fire departments…..
….and as John began applying foam to the fire near and past the dumpster, it became apparent to most of us on the sidelines, that the fire was now gaining a foothold inside the building from the heavy amount of black smoke coming from the east end of the structure….
…and it was apparent that this fight would continue for some time into the afternoon….…soon after, another hoseline was stretched by crews from Bourbon Fire Department to provide a safety line or second attack line, and they joined Sullivan firefighters working under the huge black smoke cloud on the east side of the building to attack the heavy balls of high flames….
…and soon crews were sporadically out of sight within the huge smoke cloud that enveloped everything on the east end of the building…
…where heavy fire could still occasionally be seen when the wind cooperated and slacked off to allow the heavy black and brown smoke to lift higher….
…and it was now very apparent that there was heavy fire inside the building, as the fire was venting on the south side through a vent high up on the wall at the southeast corner. By this time, several departments were on scene assisting with fire suppression and water supply, many responding with both tankers and pumpers to the scene, some bringing foam with them as well. St Clair and Bourbon Fire Departments initially responded pumpers to attack the fire at both ends of the building, supplying water to firefighters manning hoselines and tankers shuttling water back to the scene from hydrants….
Sullivan had two pumpers operating, 854 at the front of the building and 814 at the back of the building and operating a deck gun into the building from the northwest corner. New arriving firefighters from other departments were now assisting and replacing first in crews, who were able to report to rehab to get checked by ambulance personnel and take a twenty to thirty minute break from firefighting. With the second alarm, there were also now three ambulances on scene.
The fire continued to grow inside the building and there was a raging fire on the northeast corner that was only visible from time to time when the wind slacked off and the heavy black smoke lifted enough to see underneath it….
…by this time, Bourbon firefighters in the heavy smoke cloud on the east end of the building, had switched out with fresh crews, who repositioned their hoseline to the northeast corner and were attacking the heavy fire load there…
…it was obvious there was heavy fire there, but as heavy and dark as the smoke was, it was extremely difficult to see exactly what was burning in front of them, and at times, the flames were very high above them as well….
I was advised by a Bourbon firefighter that this is Bourbon`s crew of Cody Leasor, Rick Fongemie, and Captain John Thacker on the hoseline….
…they had their hands full for quite some time there, putting up with all the ever changing acrid smoke conditions and heavy fire all the way across the east wall of the building, as well as several obstacles to move around, many of which couldnt be seen from my position until the smoke finally cleared off later on…they did a great job and held their ground well….
…after a few more minutes, Damon and John Wayne returned from rehab, and joined up with Bourbon`s crew on the line….
…where they continued to hold their position at the east end and attack the heavy fire….
…at this point, I decided to walk around to the west side of the building and see what was going on over there…as more firefighters were walking into the east end to switch out with crews there….
…and saw more firefighters stretching out another hoseline on the southwest side of the building….
…I spotted pumper 814 on the northwest corner still flowing water through the deck gun into the building….
…and diesel fuel, foam, and water heavily flowing across the parking lot at this point toward the creek…soon after, an employee was able to access a front end loader at the back of the building and dam the flow a little ways to the west of the building, and keep it from reaching the creek….
Not wanting to cross the wide flow of diesel fuel, I then walked back around to the east side and climbed up to the parking lot of the church on the other side, to get a better viewpoint of the firefighting efforts on the east end of the building…Bourbon`s crews were working hard and able to get a handle on the large amount of heavy fire coming from the northeast corner of the building…
…they soon repositioned their line to better attack the flames at the corner….late afternoon sunlight streaming in from behind them hampered my efforts of getting photos but I managed to block out the light with the smoke cloud to capture some good action…
..and the next photos show the bigger picture of things….
…it was obvious that heavy fire still controlled the building, likely due to the fuel feeding the fire, and suppression efforts would continue on…my nap was now toast….
…once they had the garage door cooled down, they were able to turn their attention to the box trailer sitting on the northeast corner that was producing so much fire….
…and the next photo looks like a fire breathing dragon raring up and spitting fire out……
…not sure what happened after this photo, but the smoke sure did increase as well as the fire load, making for some dramatic fire suppression photos though….
…eventually the heavy smoke lifted and firefighters approached the trailer to better access the flames….
…I took off shortly after that…most of the fire knocked down and well under control by then…and I needed to get home and prepare for work, minus my nap…took this last photo as I was walking by the trucks….
We definitely appreciate all the departments who came to our aid on Friday, with manpower, equipment, trucks, water, and foam.