Fire Chief Parnell on successes of fighting huge Grimes Mill fire | News
SALISBURY - With the sunshine and clear skies the Grimes Mill was an inviting place for curiosity seekers, and a good environment for investigators who are searching for the cause of the Wednesday night fire.
"In my career it was one of the bigger fires I've experienced," said Battalion Chief Currie Butler of the Salisbury Fire Department.
And at the department they're looking over how they handled this massive fire and acknowledging the successes that kept everyone safe.
"Our entire response mode is predicated around the safety of the firefighters, the safety of the civilians, then bringing the fire under control in an efficient manner," Chief Bob Parnell told WBTV.
Parnell said that a combination of elements led to reaching that goal on Wednesday night when flames consumed the 1896 Grimes Mill. The fire was already big when firefighters arrived, so they went into what they call a defensive mode where firefighters don't try to go into a raging inferno.
"To make sure that we don't unnecessarily jeopardize firefighters lives or anybody else's lives from trying to protect a building that can be replaced or repaired," Parnell added.
Command staff set up collapse zones, that keeps firefighters out of areas where parts of the building are likely to fall.
"We make sure that we stay a distance away from where a building could fall on our firefighters while it's under extreme duress from a fire," Parnell added. "Our bigger concern was the embers that were coming down from that fire where actual fires can start from that."
They don't go into a fire like this blindly, in fact, they had planned for a fire at this very building and worked how how it would be handled.
"We inspect buildings every year or two years, go inside, pre plan, experience the lay out, survey the water supply, the exposure to buildings that might be close and develop a tactic or strategy in case a well advanced fire occurs to any one of our buildings," Parnell said.
The department has such pre plans on more than 500 buildings in Salisbury.
Communication was a key with 125 firefighters from so many departments all of a sudden working together.
"We had a Kannapolis ladder truck supplied by a Granite Quarry pumper that was supplied by a Locke pumper. These companies don't often respond together," Parnell added.
It becomes a unified regional response, in effect, one big department working together and connected by technology that has to be in sync.
"We have the same type of equipment, the same radio frequencies, the same accountability policies and it just allows us to work flawlessly together," Butler added.
"We use the same radio channels, we use the same radio system, we use the same communication terms and it's one regional response of many departments," Parnell added.
And there are simple things like white dry erase boards. One panel was used to show every fire hydrant near the mill, another showed the location of every fire truck working that fire, and a third showed a "plot plan" that displayed a hand drawn map of the area and notations for various pieces of equipment like the giant aerial master streams that poured 7000 gallons of water per minute into the fire.
On Wednesday night these elements came together as they were supposed to, allowing crews to contain a dangerous fire and come away without any injuries.
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