Rapid response, teamwork keeps GE fire contained

By Judith Zaccaria
Cowley County Courier Traveler – September 26, 2016

Photos by Thomas Carver. Click each photo to view full-size.

Photos by Thomas Carver. Click each photo to view full-size.



An equipment fire Thursday afternoon in General Electric’s Building 5 at Strother Field could have been much worse, but quick work by the Winfield and Arkansas City fire departments and GE personnel kept things from becoming disastrous.

A fire in a downdraft machine was reaching into the ceiling area when firefighters from both departments answered the call about 12:45 p.m., according to Winfield Fire Chief Alan Stoll.

“As far as GE was concerned, they did a great job of evacuation (of their employees) and accountability,” Stoll said.

One employee was checked by the emergency medical service for smoke inhalation and released at the scene, he said.

Fire personnel advanced two water lines into the building, Stoll said. “(Fire) personnel were able to keep the fire confined to the machine — the big, high-dollar machine.”

In fact, while visiting with this reporter, Stoll received information from GE saying that the damage to the machine was minimal and will not affect operations of the facility where they do assembly and repairs on aircraft and engines.

Stoll had high praise for the company.

“The emergency plans went very, very well,” he said.

“We had good communication. We worked together and got the (GE) staff in the building as soon as we deemed the environment safe. We paired with the maintenance department to analyze the machine and to make sure everything was clear internally with the machine.”

Stoll said GE — and other industries — have safety plans that “make our jobs easier.” With the plan, people are appointed to make sure everyone is out of the building and safe, and firefighters can be verbally guided to the affected site. “It gets us to that area quickly,” he said.

He also said the safety plan includes shutting down the gas and electricity systems and clearing the smoke with the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC) to get the carbon monoxide levels down so firefighters can work safely.

“Having the expertise and plan in place to meet (the crisis) is very effective and saves time. In fact, the fire personnel cleared the area at 3:25 p.m.,” Stoll said.

With a company the size of GE — 750 employees — checking the roster and knowing where everyone is every day is “a big deal,” Stoll said.

He said the Winfield and Ark City fire departments work very effectively together and that makes everyone safer.

Altogether, the companies had six vehicles on scene: two command vehicles, a ladder truck, an aerial platform, an engine and an EMS ambulance.

Fourteen firefighters, eight from Winfield and six from Ark City, answered the call.

Stoll said most industries have safety officers and safety plans in place.

“They are key to successful incidents,” he said.

He also said General Electric is “very, very proactive in safety for the community and its employees. That is beneficial for all of us.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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