GIRARDVILLE (SCHUYLKILL COUNTY), PA - On February 23, 2011 after 18:00 hours the Girardville Fire Department (Girard and Rangers Fire Companies), and Girardville Ambulance were dispatched to 112 W Main St. for a structure fire. The caller reported to the 911 Center there was a fire in their basement and it was quickly spreading next-door.
The police arrived in minutes and found smoke coming from the home and confirmed it was a working fire. The smoke continued to spread quickly and moved through out the first and second floor. It was determine by the police that all residents were out of the home and were safe. The Girardville-Rangers Engine 45-10 responded and hooked to a hydrant at Williams and West Main Street. The engine dropped LDH supply line and pulled in front of the fire building. Engine 45-10 went to work first by deploying an attack line into the home with the fire. Engine 45-12 established a water supply from a hydrant in the rear of the row homes and proceeded to the fire scene. Engine 45-12 staged in the rear of the home and advanced hose lines to the rear basement entrance of the home. The attack crew found the basement fully involved with spreading fire.
Girardville Chief 45 arrived on location and took command of the fire on Side A. The two attack crews advised Command that the fire was in the walls and spreading to the exposure homes. Chief 45 then ordered the 911 Dispatcher to dispatch the second alarm to the scene for a working row home fire. Ashland Fire Department Engine 38-10, Ashland Ladder 38-25, Shenandoah Columbia Engine 742, Mahanoy Plane Engine 44-10 and the Altamont-West Mahanoy Township Engine 367 (RIT Team) were then dispatched to the scene.
The Ashland Ladder 38-25 staged on the A-B Side and set up its ladder pipe. Ashland Engine 38-11, Shenandoah Engine 742 and Altamont Engine 367 staged in the area and sent their crew to the A side of the building. The crews from Ashland Engine 38-11, Shenandoah Engine 742 and Altamont Engine 367 crews backed up the first attack crews and started to attack the fire in the exposure homes. The basement fire ran the walls to the attic and vented from the roof of two homes in minutes.
Incident Command then requests the Mahanoy City RIT Team and Shenandoah Ladder-Tiller 745 to respond to the scene. Mahanoy City Humane 451, Citizens Squad 456 and West End Rescue 993 responded to Girardville and stage away from the scene. Engine 451 and Engine 44-10 were reassigned and ordered to go to a near by creek to start a drafting operations. Rescue 991 crew remained at RIT and off loaded their RIT equipment.
Ashland fire fighters entered the exposure home on the B Side and made a search for extensions and victims. Shenandoah fire fighters advanced a hose line to the third floor in a exposure home on the D Side. The interior attack crews found the fire conditions in the homes worsening and prepared to retreat from the interior. A crew of Ashland fire fighters was forced to flee the exposure home due to near flashover conditions. One of the fire fighters was rescued from a third floor window by the Mahanoy City RIT Team after being cut off from his crew. Incident Command then ordered all fire fighters to evacuate the row homes and conduct a PAR report.
Ladder 38-25 set up its stick and operated an elevated master stream. Engine 45-10 then flowed water from its deck gun and supplied Ladder 38-25. It was then learned the two hydrants were weak of water pressure and caused a water supply problem. Command then quickly ordered the dispatcher to dispatch the tanker taskforce to the growing incident.
Shenandoah Ladder 745 arrived and staged east of the fire building on the Delta Side. The crew was order to trench cut the roof of the most eastern exposure building. The truck crew from Shenandoah then went to the roof with the help of the Hookies 100 foot ladder and opened it up.
Chief 38 assumed the responsibility of the water supply officer and took over the dump tank operations. A number of tanker trucks responded from northern Schuylkill and southern Columbia Counties. Clover-Cass Township Pumper-Tanker 353, Wilburton Tanker, Mahanoy City Good American Tanker 462, Fountain Springs Tanker 4-30, Lavelle Tanker 4-32 and Gordon Tanker 46-30 respond to the scene as the tanker taskforce. The tankers were then refilled at a hydrant near Groody’s Social Hall just outside Ashland. Engine 38-10 pumped from a portable dump tank on Main Street and supplied Ladder 38-25 elevated master stream.
Shenandoah Ladder 745 was then set up to the roof of the exposure building east of the fire building. The truck crew gain access to the roof and trench cut it. The Shenandoah Ladder crew found the fire spreading through the roofs of the east side exposure buildings. The ladder crew advanced a 3 inch supply line to the roof for hand lines. The ladder crew and hose lines were later removed due to dangerous fire conditions. The fire moved through out the walls, common attics and cock lofts of the row homes. The fire then vented through the roof of all five homes and caused all operations to go defensive. The five homes eventually collapsed to the street destroying the block.
Girardville Engine 45-11 was ordered to a defensive attack and flowed its deck gun in to the rear of the fully-involved homes. Elevated master stream from the Mahanoy City Citizens Tower-Ladder 456 were directed to the collapsing roofs of the rear of the fire building. Multiple portable master streams from Engine 45-10 were opened onto the fire building to extinguish it from the front. Command then had Schuylkill County Incident Command Vehicle sent to the fire scene to provided communications support.
The hydrant that was supplying Engine 45-12 and Tower 456 failed and was shut down. Altamont Engine 367 was then ordered to set up a draft site from the bridge on Williams Street. Engine 367 then supplied Engine 45-12 and Tower 456 with water from the Girardville creek. Frackville-Goodwill Engine 43-15 was then dispatched and responded to the fire scene to set up a second draft site at the creek.
A number of hose lines were then advanced to the roof to stop the out of control fire spread. Engine crews from Altamont and Humane were able to stop the fire spread in the western direction by opening up the walls in the last home. Engine crews from Girardville, Shenandoah, and Mahanoy City Citizens were able then stop the fire spread on the eastern side of the primary fire building.
The bulk of the fire was knocked down after 22:15 hours and over haul operations started. The engine crews were unable to gain entry in to the fire buildings to extinguish hot spots due to the collapse. It was determined by Command that elevated master streams were to be utilized to put out the pockets of fire in the homes.
The fire was placed under controlled at 22:30 hours and Command allowed some units and the tanker taskforce to return. Ashland, Mahanoy Plane, Altamont and Mahanoy City (RIT Team) fire units cleaned up and cleared the scene by 00:01 hours. Mahanoy City Citizens Tower 456 was reposition to the front side of the structure on the A-B Side. Frackville Engine 43-15 supplied Engine 742 with water that was drafted from the creek. Engine 742 obtained a second water source from the hydrant and supplied the two elevated master streams. Tower 456 and Ladder 745 were put in service and operated elevated master streams. Girardville, Shenandoah, and Mahanoy City fire fighters remained on the scene through out the night wetting down the destroyed collapsed homes.
Mount Carmel Fire Companies were transferred to Ashland to be on stand by. Tamaqua Engine, Hazle Township Engine and McAdoo Ladder 49-22 stood by at the empty Citizens Fire station in Mahanoy City.
The fire continued to burn in the last collapsed exposure building (D Side) that was difficult to access. Incident Command then had Pottsville City Humane and Goodwill Fire Companies responded to the scene to assist with overhaul. Pottsville City Engine 32 and Engine 41 responded, staged on Street and set their crews into the rear of the building to due overhaul. Mahanoy City Engine 454 was then sent to the scene after 02:00 hours to help relieve the initial crews. Engine 43-15, Engine 742 and Ladder 745 was then released from the scene and returned home. Engine 454 hooked to the hydrant and supplied Tower 456 until 04:30 hours. The remaining fire units left the scene by 05:00 hours and returned back to their stations.
Fire crews remained at the fire scene through out the night to prevent any flare ups. The Girardville Fire Department was sent back to the scene after 06:00 hours for a rekindle. A total of five homes were damaged or destroyed by the fast moving fire. It was determined a day after the fire that a wood burner was the caused. The fire chief reported that there were no serious injuries to firefighters or residents. Ashland and Lost Creek Ambulances responded to the scene and assumed control of rehab with the American Red Cross.