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Four Alarms Struck at Warehouse Fire in Stanford Heights Fire District

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January 20, 2023 | NEW YORK JEFFREY BELSCHWINDER, Senior Correspondent
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

COLONIE, NY - On January 20th at 1:27 P.M., the Stanford Heights FD, along with the South Schenectady FD, Carman FD, Colonie Village Fire Co. for the FAST and Colonie EMS, was dispatched to 1204 Kings Road at BBL Construction for a structure fire. The caller reported they were cutting metal when a spark caught the interior portion of the building on fire.

The first chief that came on the air from the Stanford Heights FD requested the Midway FD to the scene with their truck company as Truck 10 was out of service due to the Stanford Heights FD just finishing handling a second-alarm fatal fire. The dispatcher notified the chief that they were taking multiple calls on the fire.

Town of Colonie Fire Services Unit 73 arrived on scene and had heavy smoke showing from the building and notified the dispatcher that whoever was taking command should transmit a second-alarm. Rescue 10 quickly arrived on scene and immediately declared to the dispatcher they had a Signal 30 working structure fire and to transmit the second-alarm, as they had a heavy fire condition in a 100'x500' warehouse. As firefighters pulled around the back of the building, they had fire blowing 30-feet into the air out of the commercial bays with multiple pieces of heavy equipment inside the structure and multiple aerosol cans, propane tanks, and gas cans beginning to explode.

The officer on Rescue 10 requested from the dispatcher to immediately transmit a tanker box as there was no fire hydrants in the vicinity of this building, and no ponds on site. As Engine 406 arrived on scene, they contacted command and asked if they needed them to lay into the scene, but unfortunately the distance from the roadway to the front of the structure was well over 2000-feet away. Engine 406 took up a safe distance between the structure and the front of the building where they had heavy fire pushing from the garage and multiple propane tanks on fire. As firefighters began conducting their walk around of the building, they discovered multiple 250-gallon tanks of oil and fuel inside the structure and around the outside of the structure, along with several 500-gallon propane tanks nearby.

Knowing the distance from the nearest hydrant was over a mile away, command requested a tanker relay to be established. The second-alarm brought the Verdoy FD, West Albany FD, Fuller Road FD, Niskayuna FD No.2, Pine Grove FD, Boght Community Fire Co. for a second FAST team and another ambulance to the scene. Additional resources from the Latham FD and Shaker Road FD were requested to the scene, and additional tankers from the Altamont FD, Plotterkil FD, Pine Grove FD, South Schenectady FD, Selkirk FD, East Berne FD, Coeymans FD, Coeymans Hollow FD, New Salem FD, Albany International Airport FD, and Fort Hunter FD were requested to conduct a tanker relay from multiple hydrants in the area to supply the scene with water.

As firefighters were attempting to conduct fire suppression from the rear of the structure with multiple master streams, they quickly began to run out of water. A special request for Knolls Atomic Laboratories FD with an engine and manpower was requested to the scene and the North Bethlehem FD to the scene with the rehab unit.

As firefighters in the front of the structure made a push into the doors of the building heavy fire blew straight through the roof of the structure, sending a massive fire ball into the afternoon sky and thick heavy black smoke plowed through the clouds and the column of smoke could be seen up to 30 miles away. Firefighters in the front of the structure used multiple K-12 saws and began to cut the garage doors open, which was pushing heavy black smoke from the top of the doors. As firefighters were making an aggressive interior attack, command in the rear of the structure ordered an immediate evacuation of the building as a large portion of the roof had collapsed. As firefighters made their way out of the structure, they began to notice heat and stress fractures beginning to form in the cinderblock walls, and yellow and black smoke began to push from those cracks, showing signs of a possible wall collapse coming.

As firefighters from the Pine Grove FD set up their portable ponds at the end of the driveway to the main fire building, tanker after tanker began to show up. With three truck companies set for master stream operations, incoming tankers had a hard time keeping up with the high demand for water for the large fire. Fuller Road FD’s Truck 3 brought their bucket down to the entranceway to the large bay door and utilized multiple master streams from the bucket, hitting the ceiling of the building and a large portion of the contents in that area of the building. As the truck company ran out of water, thick heavy black smoke would immediately begin to takeoff again, and the fire would reignite. Firefighters had difficulty keeping up with the heavy fire loads as the building was full of oils, diesel fuel, propane, acetylene, and other products, as it was one of the large mechanic facilities for the construction company. As crews ran out of water on scene, firefighters in the rear of the building began to attempt to open up additional bay doors to gain access to areas that had not fully caught fire yet in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading by getting a hand line in place ahead of the fire.

Several large explosions began to occur inside the building and command had all units in the rear of the building back up. Firefighters in the front of the building cut open a steel cased door in order to gain access to an area that had a heavy fire condition and waited for their master stream to be charged. As firefighters were battling the fire, heavy fire began to push through the 'Alpha' and 'Delta' side of the building, along with heavy amounts of brown and black smoke beginning to push from the cracks forming in the building in the concrete block walls.

Additional resources began to call into dispatch and offer up manpower and tankers for the scene from the Town of Guilderland, and command immediately took their offer. As water problems continued on scene, command had the truck company operations for master streams go down to two truck companies in order to maintain a significant water supply for the scene. As firefighters continued to battle the fire, they began to make heavy progress in the rear of the building, but the large area of the roof that had collapsed made it difficult for firefighters to gain access to the debris underneath.

At the three-hour mark into the fire, firefighters began to move apparatus around in the rear of the structure which allowed for a large excavator to remove a section of the building that had collapsed and presented extreme dangers to firefighters operating. Crews continued to hit hotspots on scene for an extended period of time. Firefighters from the West Albany FD remained on scene removing lithium-ion batteries that had been damaged from the fire and placed them in cellblock just in case they went into thermal runaway.

Throughout the entire operation, firefighters operated on scene without any injuries. The fire went to a fourth-alarm and brought in departments that normally are not brought into the town of Colonie. This was the second fire for the Stanford Heights Fire Department on January 20, 2023. Town of Colonie Fire Services are still working on the investigation of the fire.

BBL Constructions President Jonathan H DeForest released a statement after the fire: “The BBL Family of Companies would like to thank our community for their concerns for our employees and company in regard to the fire at our warehouse on Kings Road. We are grateful that no one was injured and that the damages that were suffered were limited to items that can be replaced. In that regard, we owe a great deal of gratitude to the multiple fire departments and first responders whose dedication contained the situation in a professional and safe manner. Please note, this fire did not occur at BBL's headquarters, rather it occurred at a building which was a 10,000-square-foot storage and repair facility. The loss of that facility will not impact any of our ongoing operations. BBL remains committed to our customers and community."

The Stanford Heights Fire Department released this statement on their Facebook: “Your Stanford Heights firefighters responded to two significant structure fires in our first due. Firefighters spent over 16 hours yesterday between the two fires. Typically, we try to post a summary of any significant events that occur within the district within 24 hours. Unfortunately, members were called back to Kings Road to extinguish hot spots that were discovered during debris removal today (01/21/2023). We will get you a summary in the next couple of days. Words cannot describe the level of thanks we owe to all of the fire departments, EMS providers, and Police agencies that assisted us yesterday. You all went above and beyond the call of duty yesterday, we appreciate you so much. Again, thank you all for your assistance and support."

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