Firefighters battle flames, summer swelter in Allegheny Township
In near 90-degree heat, firefighters from nine companies contended with a fast-moving garage fire in Allegheny Township fueled by drums of used heating oil and other flammable liquids being stored there along with vehicles and auto parts.
The large, two-story garage at 516 McGeary Hollow Road was destroyed.
No one was injured.
The fire broke out at about 2:10 p.m. Flames were through the roof by the time crews arrived, according to Markle fire Chief Keith Wilhelm. Firefighters were still dousing hot spots more than two hours later.
There were at least four explosions while crews were battling the blaze, Wilhelm said.
It appeared that the fire started on the second floor and burned down to ground level, he said.
A state police fire marshal is investigating.
Westmoreland County's Hazardous Materials Response Team was called to clean up about 165 gallons of heating oil that leaked from three 55-gallon drums in the garage.
The fire companies dug containment ditches, Wilhelm said. But the hazmat team was needed to do a full cleanup and assess the scene due to the nature of the chemicals inside the garage, located next to a small creek.
“There were vehicle cylinders, magnesium blocks from cars, acetylene, gas tanks on vehicles,” Wilhelm said. “Anything that you can imagine, it was in there.”
Officials said it appeared that the garage was used to restore cars. There was a 1957 Chevy inside, Wilhelm said. An older model Ford truck sitting outside was heavily burned.
Fire departments had to haul water to the site, which hampered their ability to quickly knock down the flames, said Robert Hazlet, a firefighter with the Markle and Lower Burrell Fire Company 3.
The nearest hydrant to the rural home is about 2 miles away in each direction.
Tanker trucks hauled water from the intersections of Melwood Road and Route 356 and White Cloud Road and the Bonfire Shortcut.
Contending with heat
Hazlet puts it simply: “The heat is the worst thing.”
With no breeze, hot air from idling fire trucks hung in the humid air. It gave firefighters little relief after they ended their shift battling the blaze — which Hazlet estimated was at least 5,000 degrees.
As weary firefighters headed away from the flames, they immediately removed their heavy jackets and dumped bottles of water over their heads before taking a sip.
Lower Kiski Emergency Medical Services crews did what they could to assist.
In addition to dozens of bottles of water, they handed out freeze pops. Closer to the fire scene, they set up a small misting fan that pulled water from a blue cooler.
Firefighters rotate out once they go through two self-contained breathing apparatus packs, Hazlet said.
“After that, there's nothing left in your body,” he said.
Lower Kiski responded with its medical evacuation rehab vehicle, a bus-sized unit equipped with air conditioning, refreshments and medical equipment to help firefighters hydrate and cool off between shifts. The EMTs also checked their vital signs.
“Normally, we don't come out, but with this high heat and humidity, we can cycle guys out faster,” said Peter Frejkowski, chief of Lower Kiski EMS. “Our goal is to minimize the need for evaluation at the hospital.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Braden Ashe contributed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Saxonburg man pleads no contest to setting boy, 7, on fire
- Marine recalls Saigon: April 30, 1975 — the day the U.S. Embassy closed
- Gas prices are falling, but Pittsburgh area lags behind average
- Tarentum fire hits vehicles, garage
- Charges filed in June stabbing of Buffalo Township sailor
- Harrison considers options for Pittsburgh Heritage Trail through township
- Deer Lakes hires part-time communications coordinator
- Natrona Heights Scoutmaster proud to carry on tradition
- Blessings in a Backpack to help feed Verner Elementary students
- Lower Burrell sewer projects will cost millions
- A-K Valley public pools deal with deficits, repair costs, lower attendance