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A fire suppressant was injected into hot spots of the silo at Salem Frame Co.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Officials discuss a silo fire at Salem Frame Co. on Tuesday. The fire was started by an electrical problem, Deputy Chief John Prillaman said.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Officials inspect a silo at Salem Frame Co. on Tuesday. A fire has been smoldering in the silo since last week.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Two out-of-state emergency contractors aided Salem officials Tuesday to quell a silo fire that had been smoldering since last week.
Salem Fire-EMS crews were initially called to Salem Frame Co. in the 1900 block of Salem Industrial Drive about 11:32 p.m. Oct. 2, where they found smoke and flames coming from the top of a silo used to store coarse wood dust, city spokesman Mike Stevens said.
The fire at the time did minimal damage and was thought to be contained using a ladder truck. It was determined that the flames were accidental, caused by an electrical problem, Deputy Chief John Prillaman said.
But the fire continued to smolder, Prillaman said. Employees of Salem Frame, a subsidiary of Rowe Furniture, were put on a “fire watch,” and a few sat outside 24 hours a day to monitor the silo.
Tuesday morning, a crew from Hazard Control Technologies in Fayetteville, Ga., along with a contractor that company hired from Baltimore, used thermal imaging cameras to precisely locate an estimated 300-degree hot spot in the silo.
Industrial fires like the one in Salem can be notoriously difficult to extinguish, and can be particularly deadly under certain circumstances. A domino effect of seemingly innocuous problems can lead to a powerful blast.
The contractors began Tuesday by fighting the fire remotely, said Justin Clift, a consultant with the Georgia company.
“When we first arrived on scene, the number one concern was maybe that hot spot collapsing,” he said. “That could trigger at the very minimal a flash fire with a high probability for an explosion.”
Clift isn’t a firefighter. He didn’t go to school for emergency management. “I kind of fell into it,” he said.
He went to Ohio State University to be a history teacher, but soon realized the plants and factories he was touring as part of his studies were woefully unprepared for emergencies like the one he was called to this week.
“I just started traveling and visiting all of these different utilities and realized they’re not really sharing the incidents with one another, and any time that takes place, you’re just going to repeat them,” he said. “They’re not learning from their mistakes of their industry or other industries.”
Armed Tuesday with a stainless steel rod that can pierce through the thick pile of wood dust, workers harnessed to the top of the 80-foot silo injected a fire suppression agent into the stack.
Prillaman said in the afternoon that crews had contained the hot spots and were confident an explosion had been averted.
Clift said the next step would be to confirm the hot spots were truly out using the heat-seeking cameras, and then offload the silo’s contents.
“Because it’s a bulk storage fire, we really can’t see the fire, and you never want to trust a fire you can’t see,” he said.
Prillaman said Salem Frame management agreed to call in the contractors. The company will pay for the services, he said.
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