All posts by Cheese

180 Year Old Courthouse Gutted by Fire

The 180-year-old Lancaster County Courthouse, which had survived the Civil War and an 1886 earthquake, was reduced to its two-story brick shell by a Monday fire that authorities say was set deliberately.

Lancaster Fire Chief Chris Nunnery said the fire, reported at 5:25 a.m., was started after someone broke in through a first-floor window in the front of the courthouse. He said the fire started in a courtroom on the second floor and spread.

Nunnery declined to say whether investigators found accelerant. Flames burned through the building’s tongue and groove construction and reached quickly into the 18-foot ceilings.

Authorities don’t have a dollar amount of the damages but said the courthouse, a National Historic Landmark, is more than 50 percent damaged.The county had budgeted money to fix the windows and replace the courthouse’s slate roof this fiscal year.

“Now we have a lot more to do,” Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said.

A $33 million referendum to build a new courthouse is on the November ballot. Officials said the courthouse was long overdue for replacement – it had only one courtroom and no modern security features.

Robert Mills, one of the first United States-born architects, designed the courthouse in 1828. He was among the first of his trade credited with incorporating fireproof materials in his buildings. His best known work is the Washington Monument.

A Civil War skirmish involving some of Union Gen. William Sherman’s troops took place near the courthouse in February 1865.

An earlier courthouse that stood at the site was reported to have been the location of the last witchcraft trial held in the United States, in 1813, according to local historians.

“If you care about history here in the Carolinas, and for that matter, this country, this is a huge tragedy,” said Lindsay Pettus, a local historian and saw the courthouse smoking on his way to work at 8:15 a.m.

Throughout the morning, crews from eight departments worked to douse the fire on the second floor; firefighters used protective tarps to salvage court documents on the first floor. They moved as many criminal files, veterans, civil and adoption records into the middle of a room as they could, Willis said.

State officials who preserve records will begin culling through them today to determine the extent of the damage. Nunnery said he believes firefighters salvaged about 80-85 percent of them.

It’s unclear whether authorities have a suspect or a motive.

A man suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail into the building a couple years ago has died, Nunnery said.

General session court, which includes cases of violent crimes such as rape, robbery and assault, was scheduled to start Monday morning.

“I reckon your list of suspects could be long from that,” Nunnery said.

Agents from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are joining Lancaster police in the investigation.

“The irony is that Sherman’s troops attempted to burn it, and it survived,” Pettus said. “And then the Charleston Earthquake of 1886. And now this, it just gives me a sick feeling.”

West Coast 911 Firefighting News Source

Funeral Procession for Fallen Fire Chief

Two funeral processions of firefighters and equipment for Fire Chief Dan Packer of Lake Tapps will make their way along local roads and freeways Thursday leading up to his memorial service in Federal Way.

Packer, 49, longtime head of East Pierce Fire and Rescue, died July 26 when flames overwhelmed his position while he was surveying a forest fire in the Klamath National Forest in northern California.

The memorial service, which is expected to attract hundreds of firefighters from throughout the Northwest, will be held at 2 p.m. at the Christian Faith Center. The public is invited.

Motorists in Northeast Pierce and King County can expect delays along the procession routes.

Northeast Pierce County residents will have a chance to pay their respects during the first procession Thursday morning. An East Pierce fire engine will carry Packer’s casket from Bonney Lake through Sumner to Puyallup.

The procession will begin at 10:15 a.m. in front of the Bonney Lake Police Department next to East Pierce Fire Station 11 on the Sumner Buckley Highway.

East Pierce firefighters will give a final salute. Packer’s family will be in a limousine.

The procession with about 20 East Pierce fire vehicles will head down Highway 410 and take the 166th Avenue East exit into Sumner. At 60th Street East, the procession will turn left onto Main Street and then make a left at Alder Street and a right at Thompson Street to Highway 410.

The procession will follow Highway 410 and Highway 167 onto Highway 512, then take the Meridian exit and head to the Puyallup Fairgrounds parking lot east of the grounds.

There, they will join more than 120 other fire engines and fire vehicles from throughout the Northwest.

At 11:30 a.m. the larger procession will head for the church in Federal Way. The route will follow Highways 512 and 167 into King County to Highway 18. The procession will exit at Weyerhaeuser Way and end at the Christian Faith Center, 21024 24th Ave. S.

Private graveside services will be held afterward at Sumner Cemetery.

Fire units from outside Pierce County will staff East Pierce fire stations during the procession and memorial service to allow local firefighters to participate.

West Coast 911 – firefighting news source – The News Tribune

Texas Church Fire Investigated by FBI

HORIZON CITY – A suspicious fire at a church that has drawn the ire of parishioners also has drawn the interest of the FBI and other federal agencies which are investigating the fire as a possible hate crime.The kitchen, an electronics storage room, two restrooms and a fellowship hall where the church community congregated for drinks and cake, are completely scorched. Church officials on Tuesday said they do not have insurance and the blaze caused more than $100,000 in damages.

“The church has responded in a big way. We have gotten countless volunteers out of the area and out of different churches, to come in and help us with the clean up process,” said Marco Butler, the Horizon Bible Church senior pastor. “This (rebuilding) process won’t take place anytime overnight, it’s going to be a long steady process.”

“I think with tragedy and disaster, comes a whole different level of love and community,” he said. “If it was arson, if it was a hate crime, the only thing I can really do is pray for those that have that heart. It happens, it has happened throughout history. That’s just the way it is. But out of every negative thing, there’s a positive thing.”

Horizon City Police Chief Robert Wiles said investigators still do not know what caused the blaze.

Police were dispatched to the Horizon Bible Church, 14201 McMahon, shortly before midnight on July 29. Wiles said a neighbor saw smoke coming from the roof of the church as he was driving home.Several Soccoro and Horizon City firefighters helped put out the fire, he said.

“My neighbor smelled smoke. He went around the house and saw the flame,” said Lilo Spencer, who has been a church member for 35 years. “We never expected to be like this. Nobody saw anything, nobody saw anything.”

Spencer said the people who attend the church every week are stunned and angry. Most have been interviewed by the FBI, she said.

Special Agent Andrea Simmons, a spokeswoman for El Paso FBI, said agents were initially called to the scene when the fire happened. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are also investigating.

“We have opened an investigation to see if this is possibly a hate crime, to determine whether there is a religious aspect to the arsonist’s intent,” she said. “It may just be an arson. It may not have anything to do with trying to disrupt the church.”

West Coast 911 firefighting news source – El Paso Times

San Bernardino City Fire Responds to Fatal Traffic Collision

At 3:41 pm June 24, 2008 one unit from San Bernardino City Fire Department responded to reports of a vehicle crash into a tree with fire involved. Enroute to the call the initial engine responding called for an additional engine due to the large column of smoke.


A truck with extrication equipment was also dispatched to the incident because of additional reports of a person trapped in the vehicle. There was heavy fire involvement to the vehicle as well as a tree and surrounding shrubbery upon arrival. Unfortunately the driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene due to his injuries.


San Bernardino City Firefighters Battle 2 Alarm Structure Fire

First-Hand Account 

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When the first SBFD unit arrived they saw heavy smoke and fire coming from the inside and 20 ft flames coming from the 2nd story windows of a vacant 3000 square foot two story home.  Firefighters made entry through the front door and extinguished the fire on the first floor while other crews simultaneously assisted them with extinguishing the 2 floor.  “Conditions were very hot… Continue reading San Bernardino City Firefighters Battle 2 Alarm Structure Fire

SBFD Confined Space Training Drill

First-Hand Account

SBFD Rescue 230 On the evening of February 12th, 15 members from SBFD specializing in Confined Space Ops simulated a ‘kid down in a storm drain’. Normally we run our drills during the day but we chose to do it at night this time to change it up a little. It added a little more work dealing with lighting and also vehicle and spectator traffic was a little higher making it even that much more realistic. We had an 8 foot drop into a small vault which had a horizontal pipe that went about 100 feet to another small vault/storm drain.
Continue reading SBFD Confined Space Training Drill

2 Car Collision on Mill St. – San Bernardino

First-Hand Account

Tonight we had a traffic collision on Mill Street. Colton Fire dept. responded and gave us a hand with patient care and extrication. The call came in as a two vehicle head on T/C. When we arrived we found a sedan which had collided with a pick-up truck. It was a messy scene with debris all over the road. We responded in our Rescue unit and performed an extrication operation with removal of the crash victim in just 5 minutes.

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Story submitted by FF Mike Arvizo/Photos Ben Alexander – SBFD

Midtown Madness

firestorm-2.jpg I worked a trade at Station 4 on the 4th of January. Needless to say, we got hammered. I thought Station 10 was busy…Let’s see, we did rookie testing from 9:30am to 6pm. During that time, the rest of the city had 2 structure fires. Imagine that.

Oh yeah, safety tip of the day, don’t refuel your pocket motorcycle in your living room and then place the open gas can in the kitchen where the fumes could ignite from the oven pilot light.

Got back to the Station where we quickly inhaled some pizza before the storm hit, and I’m not talking about the rain, even though that contributed to some of the madness. Let’s see, we assisted Engine 1 on a double shooting then as soon as we cleared that call, went to a stabbing 2 blocks away. It was pretty much non-stop after that. We ended up with about 10 calls from about 7pm to 5am. Gotta love the ‘Midwtown Madness’.

Stay tuned for a recap of some of last years best rescue calls.

Cheese from Berdoo

Christmas Day Wind Mayhem!

Drama Drama and more Drama. The pictures say it all. 70+ mph winds throughout San Bernardino today. Things were going crazy all day for us here at Rescue/USAR 230. Actually, it was a normal Christmas day around here. It’s always crazy around this place over the holidays. Many City disasters have occurred on Christmas, from floods to major fires, you name it. These pictures show a couple of large trees that fell either across main roads or on top of houses during our ‘wind event’.
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That’s all for now from ‘The South End of Berdoo’

Cheese out