Friday, January 29, 2016

Wilson Creek Elevator Fire!

First news color photo published in a newspaper; a grain elevator in Chicago!
On January 2, 2016, a fire broke out just after 2 p.m., at the Wilson Creek Union Grain & Trading elevator.

The town of Wilson Creek, population ~200, is located between Odessa and Soap Lake, an area west of Spokane Washington, accessed by State Route 28 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (nee Burlington Northern, nee Great Northern.)

Blogger Dan Bolyard - "Big Bend" Railroad History" - has just posted a series of photographs taken by photographer Jonathan Fischer, recording the death of a grain elevator, by fire, in central Washington state.

Fischers series of photos demonstrate the results of:

•  Volatility of wood elevator construction.
•  Volatility of elevator contents.
•  Wait time for fire personnel - probably made up of volunteers - who are arriving from different distances from their homes or work-sites.

•  Heavy dependence on water tenders - tankers - to provide suppressing fire stream. Rural departments struggle to own fire trucks capable of handling residential and "normal" business structures.
•  Height of structure, in this case 100 feet, creating a problem of getting "the wet stuff to the burning stuff." 

According to Grant County 12 Fire Chief, Scott Mortimer, the fire occurred in a wood-cribbed elevator and bin house containing wheat and canola. Both are a "total loss. At least one of the buildings had been in operation since the 1940s.

"The Improvement Bulletin" June 13, 1908, page 33
"There's a tremendous amount of wood in these old elevators; neither was completely full. The elevator was more than 100 feet tall. Particularly at harvest, grain stored unintentionally with a high moisture content can be subject to spontaneous combustion."

Mortimer went on to say "If a cause for the Wilson Creek fire is determined, it could be due to the structure. What remained of the structure and its contents was still burning January 4th.

"The building is located near a BNSF Railway rail. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the railroad temporarily closed the rail line to inspect the line." —  Matthew Weaver, Capitol Press.

First on the scene would have been Grant County Fire District 1, Station 1, located a few blocks from the fire.

Remaining units would have about 20 - 30 mile runs; but again, only once their volunteers arrive at respective stations.

•  Grant County Fire District 12 received aid from Grant County Fire District 5, the City of Ephrata Fire Department, Grant County Fire District 13 and Grant County Public Utility District.
•  BNSF closed the line to allow fire department access, and to inspect the track following the fire.
•  Note the green Center Pivot Irrigation systems.

While the photo sequence is a little muddled, in reference to structure collapse, the beginning of the fire through the third frame, when the fire fully ventilates the roof is awesome.

Then we see two water tenders (tankers) arrive an begin squirt water from their front mounted monitors, best suited for dealing with range/crop fires.

In the following frame, we clearly see the interior construction of timber-framed construction. Finally, a telesquirt (remote controlled nozzle) show up and later,

we see two manned aerial platforms are pouring on suppressive water. Overall, a great series of photographs.

Be sure to checkout Dan's book on the history of the Mid Columbia railroad history!

Finally, learn how one company, Old Globe Reclaimed Wood, turn elevator timbers into stunning works of art!

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