BUCKHANNON — At 2:05 p.m. on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, the Buckhannon Fire Department (BFD), along with multiple agencies from within Upshur County and the surrounding counties, were dispatched for a commercial structure fire in the area of 23 East Main Street in Buckhannon.
Upon arrival, we saw heavy smoke showing from a building on the corner of Main and Spring Streets. Upon completing a view of all sides of the building, the fire was upgraded to a second and then a third alarm fire. A third alarm fire is the largest response in the (BFD) dispatch policy.
Engine 1 arrived with a Captain, an off-duty Firefighter and a driver/operator, and they immediately pulled a 2.5-inch attack line and then entered the structure to search the second and third story apartment area looking for residents still in the building. The initial crew, with the assistance of an additional crew of two, were able to locate and assist with the removal of four residents from the building.
At 2:22 p.m., Truck 11 (ladder truck) was put into service, giving a bird’s eye view. At that point, from the recommendation of the command, an evacuation of the building was initiated due to rapidly growing fire conditions. The interior crews and command identified three apartments that had not been searched before exiting the building. The communication of this information couldn’t take place prior to withdrawal due to radio communication issues.
The decision was made to complete the search to clear the apartments via windows on the Spring Street side and on the rear of the building. Upon clearing the final apartment, the interior search crew found difficulty in exiting via the window they had entered. The crew attempted to exit via the interior stairwell but ultimately became disoriented due to the layout of the building and the extremely limited visibility. The situation went from bad to worse as one member of the crew became low on air. The other firefighter transmitted the “mayday” (firefighter in trouble) immediately. Other crews who had assisted in the operation from the exterior also tried to notify command of the urgent situation. Ultimately, the situation had a favorable outcome as the crew was able to locate a nearby window and take refuge on a roof. A ladder was moved to their location for their use. The firefighter who suffered the low air emergency was evaluated by EMS and released at the scene. The training and experience of all members involved during this point of the emergency allowed for the best outcome possible.
The following is a timeline of events during the operation, as well as a complete list of all organizations involved.
23 East Main Street Structure Fire Timeline
• 14:05 hours - First Alarm assignment Station 1, Station 2, Station 3, Station 6
• 14:07 hours - 1150 and Engine 1 arrive on scene
• 14:08 hours - Second Alarm struck
• 14:09 hours - Third Alarm struck
• 14:10 hours - Interior crews deployed 2.5 attack line to the second floor
• 14:12 hours - Truck l l arrived on scene
• 14:22 hours - Truck l l was up surveying
• 14:26 hours - Command requesting additional assistance to second floor
• 14:29 hours - Command requesting additional help to second floor again
• 14:33 hours - Lewis Truck 1 advising part of the structure is collapsing
• Command orders an evacuation of the building
• After evaluating the structure, command orders crews to reenter the building to search possible occupied apartments
• 14:56 hours – “Mayday” is called by an interior crew for low air and zero visibility
• Firefighting crew was removed by additional crews
• 15:18 hours - Building cleared and defensive mode is initiated
• 19:28 hours - Scene is turned over to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal
• Buckhannon Fire Department
• Adrian Fire Department
• Ellamore Fire Department
• Warren District Fire Department
• Washington District Fire Department
• Banks District EMS
• Upshur County 911
• Upshur County EMS
• Upshur County OEM
• Upshur Health Department
• Upshur County Sheriff Department
• Buckhannon Police Department
• Numerous City Utility Departments including Parking Enforcement and Buckhannon VIPS
• Weston Fire Department
• Jane Lew Fire Department
• Belington Fire Department
• Junior Fire Department
• Elkins Fire Department
• Randolph County EMS
• Approximately 1.3 million gallons of water was used on the fire.
• Four residents were removed during operations.
• No transportable injuries were reported.
• Two fire department vehicles were damaged.
• One set of turnout gear was damaged, a ventilation saw, one 2.5 inch nozzle and 5 sections of hose were destroyed.
The Buckhannon Fire Department would like to thank all organizations that assisted in this operation. We would like to also thank all the individuals and organizations in our community that brought water, food, and everything else we needed to mitigate this response in a safe manner.