Tales of the Seventh Battalion 25

A Typical 7th Battalion Fire

The Squad 4 guys grumbled as they came off their rig, “Another typical 7th Battalion fire.” The location was the Revere Copper and Brass Company on West Jefferson. The building was under demolition and extends about 1500 feet from Jefferson to the Detroit River. The side exposures were historic Fort Wayne on the west and the Detroit Edison power plant on the east. The yard was torn up and approach with equipment was difficult. The fire was on the roof of the factory almost 40 feet high.

The heavy 55 foot extension ladder had to be carried about 500 feet and raised under difficult conditions. It was a dark, hot, humid night in late October. The machinery had been removed and only dangerous oil pits remained. Every sewer cover had been stolen. The entire floor space was covered by six inches of standing water hiding every hazard with a placid looking  black lake. A miserable place. A miserable fire.

The nearest working hydrant was in Fort Wayne. Engine 33 stopped at the barbed wire fence, dropped line, and headed for that hydrant. It took a complicated combination of ladders to scale an 8 foot fence topped with barbed wire, cross a deep ravine, go up six feet to a window, and drop 10 feet into the building. The line was then hoisted to the roof and two hours later the fire was finally extinguished. A good stop considering the obstacles the Firefighters faced. Like most 7th Battalion fires this one did not come with a user’s manual.

Everyone was hot, dirty, and tired. It was ironic that the huge factory would soon be leveled and gone. The prime objective was to prevent the fire from getting out of control and extending to Fort Wayne or the Edison facility.

As we picked up our line we waded through the six inches of water covering the factory floor. One of the Squad guys forgot about the oil pits and open sewers that were invisible under the water. I was moving slowly tapping with my pike pole as I moved toward the entrance way. A Squad guy moved by me at a quickened pace. I was looking at his back when he disappeared. He came up sputtering, wet, and oily. He used swear words that can only be found in a Hungarian dictionary.  I helped him fish his helmet out of the pit and as he joined his buddies getting back on his rig I heard him grumble one more time, "Another typical 7th Battalion fire."

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