PRESTONSBURG — Firefighters from numerous local departments battled the flames at Worldwide Equipment in Prestonsburg on Wednesday, but were only able to contain the damage after the fire began to engulf the entire garage.
Employees evacuated the premises safely, and no serious injuries were reported. It is not yet known how the fire started.
Firefighters and rescuers from Prestonsburg, the Floyd County Emergency and Rescue Squad, Allen, Auxier, Cow Creek, McDowell, Garrett, Martin, Maytown, and Middle Creek were all on scene throughout the afternoon, along with assistance from Trans-Star Ambulance and the Prestonsburg Police.
Tim Martin, division manager with the Worldwide Equipment location in Prestonsburg, says the sprawling building housed, among other things, the parts department and several service garage bays for the trucks in their care.
Early on, firefighters seemed to have the blaze under control, but Prestonsburg Fire Chief Bobby Carpenter says that was actually deceiving—the fire was raging inside and mostly not visible. A crew of two took a ladder truck to the roof, where they used an ax and chainsaw to cut a hole in the roof and allow the truck to pump water inside, where it was needed most.
In the ensuing hours, though, the flames began to show themselves, working their way across the building until the entire structure was burning. Firefighters tried to coordinate with Worldwide Equipment Employees to move a pair of trucks parked at the north end of the building, but they, too, were soon ablaze, along with the trucks inside that were being serviced.
Eventually, Carpenter says the situation grew too dangerous, and the fire trucks nearest the building blared their air horns in a clear message to the crews: evacuate. Only minutes after the crews had been called off, the second floor of the building collapsed.
Carpenter says acetylene, oxygen, used oil, and tires contributed to the severity of the fire, and were likely the cause of the loud, thudding explosions that continued to go off as the building burned. The main issue in keeping the blaze contained was water supply; in a fire of that size, he estimates 5,000 gallons per minute would be needed, but the nearby hydrant could only provide 1,500, and additional tankers from other local departments could only contribute another 1,000.
After the evacuation, firefighters continued to spray the south end of the building, to keep the nearby sales office and the crews themselves safe, while the roof and walls began caving in.
Due to the location of the fire, the investigation will continue by the Cow Creek Fire Department.