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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Perham Fire

Firefighters battled flames throughout the night.
It was interesting that almost all of the news reports covering the January 21 large potato warehouse fire in Perham mentioned the emphasis on firefighter safety. This quote from Fire Chief Mark Schmidt was typical of the on-scene coverage: "There's a lot of freezing water going on, so we want to make sure no one slips and falls and gets hurt.” And no one did get hurt.

The Numbers
The “numbers” make that accomplishment even more impressive. The firefighting efforts during this incident involved 17 fire departments, 130 firefighters, 17 water tankers, 3 ladder trucks, -20F temperature, and a gusty wind that drove the wind chills down to -30F. The responders also pumped 1.2 million gallons of water.

Communications and Coordination
Chief Schmidt added that communication went well and described how three radio channels were used to keep the operation coordinated. Due to the size and location of the warehouse, water had to be trucked in to crews working on one side of the building. The tanker operation needed to synchronize the truck’s movements with the fill and dump sites, while tankers were guided through heavy smoke and maneuvered into position. They were assigned their own radio talk group that functioned similarly to an airport flight control system. 

The chief cannot talk about the fire without crediting the good working relationship with the surrounding departments. He is also quick to thank and credit the county dispatchers, area law enforcement, the Perham hospital, the Salvation Army, and Bauck Busing for providing a bus for firefighter rehab.
Firefighters worked in brutal conditions with no injuries.

In an open letter of appreciation, the chief wrote: “Thanks to all the firefighters for staying disciplined and keeping safety in high regard. I’m very proud of the command staff that I had around me that night, and how well they did with giving me information so we could make decisions to best keep all fire operations running smoothly and safely.”

This fire serves as a good example as to how communication, cooperation, and coordination are linked to fire scene safety. Congratulations to the Perham-area public safety responders.


                                             Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…A Loss Control Workshops Preview

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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