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Furnace Street Storage Facility Destroyed by Fire

Several local businesses were leasing space in barn; nearby oil truck ignited, adding to the nighttime blaze and complicating cleanup.

A fire last night destroyed a storage facility behind the . building on Furnace Street. The blaze broke out at approximately 11 p.m. and ignited a nearby oil truck, in addition to consuming the building.

Several local businesses leased space in the large storage barn, owned by Valley Builders. Tenants included Bender Electric, Haberstumpf Home Enhancmenets, and Valley Builders

Rick Bender, owner of Bender Electric, tried to remain strong as reality set in that much of his business is now gone.

“It’s a total loss,” Bender said. “I lost a truck and all inventories – tools and pretty much everything – 20 years worth. I have my other truck though. That’s all I’ve got left. I’m still in a little bit of shock. I think everybody is. You never think something like this is going to happen."

Bender said his insurance company was there, as well as the other business owners’, but an investigation will be required before settlements can be made.

Vice President of Dries & Reichard, David Frey said the fire started around 11 p.m. Several fire companies were called in including Emmaus, Vera Cruz, Upper Milford, Lower Macungie and Alburtis. The fire was extinguished by 5 a.m., he said.

The intense heat created by the initial fire caused a Dries & Reichard oil truck holding 1,200 gallons of oil to ignite.

“There’s nothing left of the truck. The frame’s bent. What most people don’t know is that oil won’t burn unless it’s preheated, so this had to be really hot to get that oil to burn. You can have a five-gallon drum with oil and throw matches in all day, but it won’t light,” Frey explained.

Frey said he was just glad it didn’t spread to the company's main offices, which are located a little farther south along Furnace Street.

“What can you say? We’re gonna have to get a new truck and that’s life. Nobody was injured. Nobody was hurt. Everybody’s got insurance, at least we do. Now there will be a new oil truck, old company on the streets of Emmaus,” Frey said.

Minuteman Spill Response, Inc. of Mifflinville, Pa., was on the scene cleaning up the contaminated area surrounding the fire-struck building.

Since oil and water don’t mix well, the oil was pushed away from the scene of the fire and into surrounding areas. Pads were used to absorb the oil off the top of standing pools of water, while excavating equipment was used for larger areas.

Sheila Gottschall of Minor Street said she smelled the fire before she heard the sirens late last night. Out of curiosity, she took a walk down to Furnace Street to see what was happening.

“There were big flames shooting up. Then all the fire companies were here – Alburtis was here, Lower Mac was here, Emmaus was here. They were chainsawing the building so it would collapse on the fire. It was really smelly. We got here around 11 p.m., and by 1 a.m. it seemed like the flames were gone, and it seemed to be under control.”

Robert Schwoyer June 30, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Just so there is no mix up. There is some things in the story that is mixed up. First the oil truck was in the garage and was fully involved upon the arrival of the first piece of apparatus on the scene. We drug it out around 4 in the am. We needed to pull it out to put out the many hot spots around the truck. As for the comment that Sheila Gottschall made on the cutting of the building. We only cut the garage doors that were not melted away. We did this to gain access to the area to stop the spread of the fire. So at no time were we trying to make the building collapse. We also cut a small hole in the side of the building to also gain access. A building like that made out of metal is very hard to put out when on fire. All the metal roofing falls down on the things burning making a cover over it. Making it very hard to get water on the fire. So we do need to make a couple of cuts to gain our access.
Jennifer Marangos (Editor) June 30, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Thanks for the clarification Robert. The oil truck's location during the blaze was made inaccurate by an editing error on my part. I am sure that Ms. Gottschall, a bystander during the fire who shared what she saw, will appreciate your explanation of what was going on while she was on the scene.
Christopher George June 30, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Rob, I'm sure ya'll did a bang up job for the situation at hand. When people don't understand what it is that has to be done, the mis-understanding of what their eyes see is amazing at times. As a former member of the EFD (86-96), I am always proud to see that the mission was completed and everyone went home safe after a LONG night.
Ryan Crawford September 03, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Just to add to that, I was on the first in engine and the building was pretty much as you see it now, as far as collapse.

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