A week ago Sunday night, I was sitting here watching tv when I heard Central County Fire Alarm tone out St Clair Fire District for a possible house fire in the area of their Main Fire Station…a few minutes later, as firefighters arrived at their Main Station, they apparently looked half a block down the street behind their station and from what they saw, they struck a second alarm working Commercial Structure Fire. I grabbed my camera and scanner, as Missy and I headed for the truck and headed east to St Clair. I also heard Sullivan Pumper 854 dispatched by Franklin County to assist St Clair by moving up to their Station One and standing by, in case they received other fire calls. As I passed under our east overpass, I observed 854 at the stop sign on top of the overpass…a move up is usually a casual, non emergency drive to the fire district you are moving up to.
Missy and I arrived at St Clair`s Fire Station One about fifteen minutes later, twenty minutes after St Clair arrived on scene and struck their second alarm…I found a parking spot and left Missy to guard the truck, grabbed my camera and walked to the scene, half a block behind the Fire Station. As I walked up on the scene, I came upon a couple of St Clair firefighter friends, Dale Sullivan and Brian Hinson, visited with them a bit, and they gave me some background on the fire.
This was the St Clair Historical Museum, the two story heavy wood frame construction building was believed to be approximately 125 years old, and it was obvious there was a lot of heat and fire trapped under the corruguated metal roof on the second floor….
…as you can see in the image above. there is a breach from the roofline down to the ground along the wall, and within a few minutes, flames broke out near the second floor level….
…the firefighter walking across the street in the image above with the white helmet, is Les Crews, St Clair`s new Fire Chief, who came on board around the first of the year…Les is a great guy and has about forty years of firefighting and command experience, getting his start with St Clair around the same time I started with Sullivan. Soon after the flames vented the sidewall, firefighters scrambled to re-position a hoseline to knock it back down….
…and you see St Clair firefighters climbing up on the porch roof to access the upper story windows, to knock out the glass panes which would enable Union`s Ladder pipe to spray a heavy volume of water inside the front of the building….soon after, St Clair`s Ladder Truck positioned near the back of the structure, and Union`s Ladder Truck positioned near the front of the building, to prepare for a massive surround and drown operation, what they call an exterior attack.
On their arrival, St Clair firefighters entered the ground floor of the building and climbed the stairs, only to be met with extreme heat and heavy fire buildup on the second floor, which forced them back down the stairs and out of the building…the age of the building and metal roof worked against them in providing heavy fuel loads and holding in the heat and fire…an exterior attack was the only option left to fight the fire. As the fire began to build again, a couple of St Clair firefighters climbed their seventy five foot stick and tried to find some spots to access the fire with their ladder pipe stream….
…and even though firefighters were up there for a bit, they were unable to find any access points for the ladder pipe stream….while up there, the color of the smoke changed quite a few times, depending greatly on what was burning inside the museum….
…and then they came back down the ladder….
…and their ladder was re-positioned and lowered to the side of the building, possibly to aid in the attack on the side of the building where the fire vented earlier….
…and in the next image, you see Union`s Ladder Truck positioned at the front of the building and directing their Ladder Pipe Stream into the front of the building through the second floor windows….
…within a few minutes of the Ladder Pipe assisted exterior attack at the front of the building, heavy fire vented out the back of the building at the roofline…..
…pretty soon the fire began growing as it vented out the back wall and roofline, and within a few moments resembled a blowtorch and even sounded like one…I was standing in a vacant lot across the street talking to the Electric Lineman who had just finished disconnecting the power at the pole behind the building…he would have been real close to those flames had he still been there and we could easily feel the heat coming from those flames where we were standing, approximately fifty feet away…..believe me, he was very glad he had finished the task when he did….
…you can see the ground hoseline streamline coming up from the left and aimed up and over the heavy fire, to give the Ladder operators some protection as they realized the need to re-position the ladder and hit this growing body of fire….the next image shows the fire coming out like a blowtorch….
..and as the Ladder moves around, a ground hoseline crew positions behind the Ladder Truck to assist in hitting the heavy fire as well….
…within a few minutes, fire started breaching the metal roof all over the place, front, back, and sides…
….everyone on the fireground and everyone watching figured it was all over and just a matter of time now…because most exterior attacks do not turn out well at all and most result in one thing only….a burned out shell of a building….but all of the firefighters on scene persisted and stayed the course, putting up a great fight, never letting up front, back, and all around….
…and within thirty minutes, this fire was brought under control and crews were able to begin mopping up, and much more than the shell of the building remained standing….
Firefighters were also able to enter the back door off the sidewalk and remove some file cabinets as well, trying to salvage some records for the museum staff, however many physical historical items and displays were a total loss.
Firefighters from Union, Boles, Pacific, Cedar Hill, and Sullivan assisted St Clair with the operation and were on scene for some time throughout the night.