FWFD: 'Size Of Fire Taxed Our Resources' (VIDEOS & PHOTOS)

By Emma Koch - 21Alive
By Corinne Rose - 21Alive
By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

August 19, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 5:13 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – Tuesday at 5 a.m. firefighters were still fighting hotspots at a warehouse complex that sparked at around 2:30 p.m.

Four firefighters have been reported with minor injuries.

Deputy Chief Mark Nelson with FWFD:

"Right now we are just trying to concentrate on minimizing the hotspots and minimizing the amount of smoke that this is putting off. When it gets light our investigators are going to come back in and work with demolition crews and systematically continue to take this apart.

"Obviously the size of it taxed our resources. We had a lot of units. Throughout this incident to this point we have had every single fire unit on duty rotate through this at some point. A number of them were here when the scene was at it's peak but through the night, even though the scene was deescalated, we continued to have crews rotate through. We still have other emergencies we have to respond to. We are sending guys away from here, tired, exhausted, a little beat up. And they have to replenish and rehydrate and rest up a little bit but be prepared for the next incident that continues to come in.

"The immediate thing, obviously we want to get enough resources here to take care of the problem here. But when an incident of this magnitude creates a hole in our resources to the extent that it does, the first thing we do it start moving our in service rigs around so that we can still provide coverage for the remainder of the city. As this scene continued to escalate we brought more of our resources in and we back filled from some of the township fire departments in the county. We had a number of them manning our stations on standby in case we would get another large scale incident where they would lend some support to us and we had a number of the township fire departments here as well giving us support on the scene later into the incident

"It absolutely does. You know a good majority of the time it's the other way around, they will call for our resources. We are kind of thought of as the big department in the area, full time paid and everything. And we can handle most incidents, which is true. But we do on occasions like this extend beyond the capabilities of our resources and we rely on them very much. And we understand that and it very much demonstrates the mutual aid relationship we have with the county.

"Our investigators were here until very late last night, until it became less productive for them to continue work with the darkness. Just the size of this incident and the amount of destruction makes it difficult to know where to begin. But they will very methodically take these buildings apart, using heavy equipment to demolish the structure systematically and comb through the debris. Obviously it still poses a danger to them, climbing around or being around the debris piles we have here is a little bit dangerous. It's not like the more routine fire where they can sift through things by hand and they are looking at a smaller area that was involved in the fire. This is a much much larger and obviously bigger components that they will be sifting through."

Monday 11 p.m. Report:
The fire that broke out in the River City Complex is finally under control.

After approximately 9 hours, firefighters were finally able to control a large fire in the 1200 block of Herbert St, but smoke could still be seen Monday night. Demolition crews will be working over night to put out hot spots.

Earlier Monday, AEP shut down power in the area as a safety precaution, leaving neighborhoods in the dark and stop lights out for hours. AEP restored power between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Monday. A railroad in the area has also reopened.

Officials believe storage units, warehouses, and auto repair shops make up the River City complex. A man who owns a business in the complex says he believes there to be 12 to 13 businesses in the area.

Fire officials report a Fire Battalion Chief was patrolling the area and noticed a small plume of smoke coming from a building inside in the complex and called for backup. However, Phil Biddle, who owns Skyline Group Companies, an automotive and medical equipment repair shop, says when he arrived at work just before 2 p.m. Monday, he noticed the smoke and called 911. He says the dispatcher told him they haven’t received any other reports and they’ll send out a crew. Biddle lost his business to the fire and says he spent all day watching it burn down. He says he’s still in shock and the loss hasn’t sunk in yet.

Fire officials say they have no idea what caused the fire, but due to the significant damage of multiple structures, the investigation will be lengthy.

Cochran Street from the Tecumseh St. Bridge and Coombs Street to Liberty will remain closed until further notice.


Monday Afternoon Live Reports:
Corinne Rose is reporting on the scene and says there are massive flames shooting 50-60 feet into the air. We are told that the warehouses may house cars, fireworks, pool chemicals and blue foam used for home-building.

50 firefighters that are on scene are being rotated in to battle the blaze for their safety. The smoke is reportedly not toxic and no evacuations have been necessary at this point.

Corinne says it is the largest fire she has seen in years. There is a ladder truck with at least two firefighters trying to fight the fire from above. At times the firefighters are obscured by smoke.

The Tecumseh St. bridge is closed and Coombs St. is closed north of Liberty St.

Power outages are being reported in the surrounding area.

No injuries are reported at this time.

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