PORTER TOWNSHIP (SCHUYLKILL COUNTY), PA - On July 9, 2010 at 10:15 a.m., the Porter Township Fire Department (Orwin, Muir, Joliett, Sheridan, and Reinerton Fire Companies), Tower City Fire Company, Lykens Tower Ladder, Williamstown Tanker and Tower City Ambulance, were dispatched for a house fire at 410 Dietrich Avenue, in the Village of Orwin. The 911 center received multiple phone calls that the rear of the house was on fire. The Orwin firefighters arrived to find smoke and flames coming from the rear of a two and a half-story house. The fire continued to spread quickly through the home and moved to the second floor and attic.
The Incident Commander requested that the second alarm and additional units, were to be dispatched to the scene. Wiconisco, Pine Grove North End, Hegins, Tremont, Donaldson, Pitman, Gratz, Llewellyn-Branch Township, Newtown, Dauphin and Elizabethville Fire Companies, responded to the scene to assist with the fire ground operations. Command also requested tankers from the dispatched fire companies to respond and set up a tanker shuttle system.
Orwin Engine 655 arrived on scene first to the working house fire. Orwin Engine 655 established a water supply from a hydrant a block away. The Orwin Engine crew made an offensive attack to stop the fire.
The Tower City Engine 66-10 arrived and staged in the rear of the home, with the Sheridan Engine 647. Muir Engine 650 laid in from a second hydrant and supplied the Tower City Engine with water. Engine 647 drafted from a portable dump tank, filled by tankers. The Engine crews in the rear, backed up the first attack crew with additional hose lines and attacked the fire in the rear. The Lykens Tower-Ladder 22 staged in front of the home and sent its Platform into the air. The truck crew assisted the firefighters with offensive operations.
The smoke and fire conditions in the home, increased and the crews had to be evacuated. The heavy fire conditions in the second floor and attic made the home unsafe. A defensive attack had to be ordered by the Incident Commander to stop the fire. The firefighters on the scene attacked the fire from outside with many hose lines. Tower-Ladder 22 used its master stream to spray water into the second-floor windows. Firefighters sprayed water on the two next door homes to prevent the fire spreading to the exposed buildings.
The smoke and fire conditions in the building, decreased and the crews made a second attack inside of the home. The crews, in minutes, lost water pressure, due to a broken water main in the area of the fire. The fire then spread to the roof and attic area, causing firefighters to retreat again. The fire then burnt through the roof, causing it to collapse into the home. The firefighters continued attacking the fire through a defensive attack with large hose lines.
Minersville Rescue 518, Altamont- West Mahanoy Township Engine 367, and Pottsville City West End Ladder 51 responded to the Tower City Area to stand by for other incidents.
Williamstown Tanker 24 set up additional portable dump tanks and supplied Engine 647 with water. The second and third alarm firefighters, then deployed additional large hose lines to support the defensive attack. The smoke and fire conditions in the building decreased and the crews re-enter in the home, to due overhaul. The Pine Grove and Hegins Engines staged just West of the building and sent it's crew to the scene to assist with overhaul operations.
The conditions in the building decreased and the crews had the fire under control in four hours. The extreme hot weather conditions made for a long day. A number of firefighters suffered from heat stress and had to receive rehab. Halifax Rehab Trailer, Red Cross and a number of EMS units, provided Rehab.
The fire was under control and all hot spots were out with no rekindles by 3:00 p.m. The fire chief reported that the building was a total loss and the next door houses received minor heat damage. The State Police investigator was on scene, investigating the fire.
It was later in the incident, when firefighters learned that Douglas L. Smith, 50, of Williamstown Hose No. 1 Fire Company suffered a major heart attack and passed away. Firefighter Smith arrived at the Williamstown Station in Dauphin County to drive their tanker but became ill. He was transported to the hospital, where he died from cardiac arrest. He was a 29-year member of the Liberty Hose Company #1, Williamstown, where he currently was the Chief Driver. He formerly served as president, treasurer and assistant Fire Chief in the past. He was also very active with the Williamstown Ambulance, where he was a driver. Smith retired from the Pa. Army National Guard, with twenty-two years of service. He was laid to rest on July 15, 2010 with full military and fire service honors.
The Porter Township Fire Companies responded later in the day, for a second working house fire. The fire was reported at 7:20 p.m., at 50 Beaver Road, in Porter Township. It was quickly knocked down by the first arriving engine and did not developed into a bigger fire.