By FF Danny O'Connell & Safety Officer Kevin Sweeney
May 25, 2012
On May 23, 2012 at 11:52 hours The West Grove Fire Company was dispatched to assist The Union Fire Company No. 1 of Oxford for a reported house fire to the rear of the 2400 block of Hickory Hill Road in East Nottingham Township.
Initial responding units were given the information from the Chester County 911 Center that a house was fully involved and the reporting party was unaware of any occupants inside the structure.
Units responding to the dispatched location could see a large column of black smoke from miles away. Deputy 21 was first arriving officer on scene and corrected the location to the 900 block of Saginaw Road. The initial scene size up included a 2 story single-family dwelling, fully involved. Deputy 21 quickly requested a working fire dispatch to be struck. Engine 21-1 was first arriving engine and deployed a large diameter hose supply line at the end of the driveway and preceded back the 1000' curvy stone driveway to the structure. Engine 21-1 crew initially attempted to make an interior attack on the uninvolved portion of the structure but was quickly driven back by the intense heat and flames. Deputy 21 advised all units that this will be a defensive attack and he establish "Saginaw Command".
Second arriving engine was Engine 21-2, which picked up the supply line for Engine 21-1. Engine 12 and Engine 22 arrived on scene shortly after and crews assisted Engine 21-1 with deploying defensive operations with blitz fire attack lines and 1 ¾ hand lines. Both Engine 12 & 22 Operators were utilized in water supply operations. Engine 12 was sent to the Oxford High School to set up a fill site while Engine 22 was utilized to establish a draft site along the Big Elk Creek adjacent to the driveway leading up the scene. Crewmembers from Engine 32, Ladder 22 and operators from other apparatus on scene assisted in the set up the draft site by setting up four 6" hard sleeve sections and a floating strainer to pull a 16' draft from the creek below.
While the draft operations were being established a first alarm tanker task force was struck in the mean time bringing in surrounding tankers for a water supply until a constant water source was established. Tanker 22 arrived and supplied Tanker 21 with its 3000 gallons of water and then entered into the tanker shuttle, Engine 32 also pumped 1000 gallons into Tanker 21 and headed to a nearby hydrant to refill. Once Engine 22 established a secure draft from the creek they began to supply Engine 21-2 to the fire scene.
Meanwhile at the fire scene, firefighters from West Grove worked with the numerous mutual aid companies operating many attack lines to battle the intense blaze. The fire was spreading rapidly and the roof and walls started to crumble within itself. A Second alarm was struck bringing in more manpower to help rotate fresh crews throughout the incident due to the heat and strenuous workload.
Unbeknownst to the initial arriving crews this structure was no ordinary single-family dwelling that they are accustom to. Firefighters learned later in the incident that this was a residential/commercial property of which was approximately 20,000+ square feet in size and included a large wood shop with various industrial equipment inside. The building construction was a mixture of heavy timber frame as well as portions with concrete floors/ceilings and block walls. This construction and fire load lead to a very difficult fire to contain and extinguish. Crews worked late into the evening hours flowing water from large hand lines and a Ladder pipe onto hotspots as a trackhoe was used to tear down the remaining walls.
The large structure is a total loss and no injuries were reported for the incident. The West Grove Fire Company units cleared the scene and went available at 21:25 hours. The cause of the fire is still under investigation with the Chester County Fire Marshals Office. Special thanks to the transfer companies for covering our first due area during this large incident.