Able Tire Service, York, Pa. YORK, Pa.-What began as child's play could have ended in tragedy when two 11-year-old boys piling up scrap tires to use as a fort ignited a fire that took almost 22 hours to extinguish.
Before the Dec. 2 blaze at Able Tire Service in York was out, more than 200 firefighters from 14 fire departments in neighboring communities were on the scene to contain the fire, which threatened a two-story apartment complex attached to the tire store, as well as a nearby propane tank. The building's residents were evacuated.
Chief John Bierling of the West Manchester Township Fire & Emergency Service said the youths evidently used matches to light a pile of leaves by their scrap-tire fort, then as the fire spread they tried to snuff it out by throwing small tire chips on it.
``Then they got scared and ran away,'' he added, ``and by the time it was discovered, it was pretty much out of control.''
During the five hours it took to contain the fire, the York County Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team dammed water flowing from it to collect petroleum run off.
Mr. Bierling said there was ``no long-term environmental damage'' to the commercial-industrial area, and only one fireman was slightly injured fighting what was the township's first tire fire.
He said still-smoldering piles consisting mostly of an estimated several hundred truck tires were eventually moved away from the three-bay building with heavy equipment and extinguished.
While the chief has yet to receive an accurate assessment from insurance investigators, he said a local newspaper estimated damages ``at about a million dollars.''
The building housing the 13-year-old retail/commercial dealership and a retread shop was completely destroyed, as was one of Able's two service trucks.
The company, which has six employees, is still providing road service for tractor-trailers with its remaining truck.
Owner Steve LaVana could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bierling said the fates of the two boys-who came forward and admitted setting the fire-are in the hands of juvenile authorities and the local district attorney. However, he believes there was no malicious intent to burn the building-just child's play that got out of control.
Falcon Imperial, Fresno, Calif.
FRESNO, Calif.-A malfunctioning air compressor started a fire Dec. 1 that ignited hundreds of used tires and destroyed two family-owned businesses in Fresno, including a new and used tire dealership.
In hindsight, the four employees working when the fire began might have been better off calling the fire department immediately, rather than trying to put it out themselves.
Employees at Falcon Imperial Tire Co. in Fresno noticed a fire at 5 p.m. that most likely had been smoldering for some time, said John Salveson, an arson investigator with the Fresno Fire Department.
``I think there was a delay in calling 911. They tried to put it out themselves,'' he said. ``In the meantime, this thing was getting bigger and bigger.''
By night's end, the fire had caused more than $450,000 in damage, destroying the tire dealership and a nearby law office of one of its owners.
Investigators ruled the fire accidental. There were no injuries.
The cause of the compressor malfunction may never be known due to the extent of damage caused by the fire, Mr. Salveson said, although he suggested the machine could have overheated and ignited nearby equipment or a can of gasoline.
He said the fire's intensity grew and began affecting the electrical system. Employees first noticed the fire after the lights began to flicker.
About 30 firefighters used water and foam to contain the fire, which burned for some six hours.
The owners of the dealership and adjacent law office could not be reached for comment.