Domino-Effect Fire Ignites Four Structures - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Domino-Effect Fire Ignites Four Structures

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A three alarm fire early Sunday morning had every fire crew in the area geared up, to fight four different blazes.

Weather conditions made a dangerous situation even more dire, when fire crews responded to the early morning call.

"We got crews here, by the time the crews could get water on the fire we already had fire through the roof," said Kearsarge Fire Chief John Hanke. 

A neighbor made the call to 911 around 5:30 a.m., after a bright light woke him up.

"I woke up to light flashing through my house... it was transformers blowing," said Doug Oathout, whose house sits just southeast of where the blaze began on Peach Street.

The initial call came in as wires down, since Oathout could see the giant pine tree which had split in two, taking out several electrical wires. That caused an electrical surge into Lake Erie Dental just across the street on Peach and Washington.

Within the hour, the Station Dinner Theater next door also had smoke coming from the roof.

Heavy winds carried embers from the blaze and ignited a garage, and a home, a few blocks away on West Gore Road.

"I'm assuming they were probably around forty, fifty mile and hour gusts," said Hanke, "a lot of embers go flying through the air and can carry a distance."

It caused a domino effect, to an extent that even seasoned veterans of fire fighting had never seen.

"I haven't seen an instance like this in all my years here," said Kearsarge Deputy Chief Dan Hesch. "We really, throughout this whole incident, had four structures burning."

"I've been doing this fifteen, sixteen years," said Hanke, and he's never witnessed "a domino effect like we had today."

The fires alone weren't the only threat to firefighters, though.

"With the embers burning, with the wind, they had some kind of a compressed air cylinder and tank explode in the back of the building," said Hesch. "With live wires down on Washington Avenue there were a lot of safety concerns."

Responders from at least six fire departments combined forces seamlessly, to handle a chaotic situation as smoothly as possible.

"Between all the departments I would guess between sixty and seventy personnel came here to assist us," said Hesch. ""It was a wonderful mutual aid effort on everybody's part."

No one was injured in any of the fires, although rehab vehicles were at the scene in case of hypothermia.

The official cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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