6/7/17 – Beaver Dam Fire Chief Alan Mannel gave the city’s Police and Fire Commission an update last night on the role his department played in responding to the deadly explosion at Didion Milling in Cambria. Beaver Dam was on-scene from 11:30pm Wednesday until 6am Thursday, supplying a ladder truck, an ambulance and Mannel’s services as a fire chief; he was assigned by incident command to be a supervisor on the south side of the complex. He says there were several fires burning in the rubble and on the roof of the remaining multi-story structure. Obvious structural damage to the building made entry, or working near the building unsafe and not an option. A ‘collapse zone’ was maintained in the event the remaining structure fell.
Mannel says because of the layout of the scene and the changing tasks that needed to be done, the city’s ladder truck was broke down and re-positioned three times which is a very labor intensive operation. Shortly after the fire truck was repositioned the first time, a severely burned victim was located and Mannel and a Beaver Dam paramedic assisted with treatment until an EMS unit arrived. Village-owned fire hydrants surround the plant but Beaver Dam was using private hydrants supplied from the nearby ethanol plant. For safety concerns, the ethanol plant had its electricity shut-off which disabled the water supply. Two tanker trucks were brought in with ten water tenders to feed the ladder trucks master stream. He says at no time did Beaver Dam lose its water supply.
Mannel described a scene with multiple “walking wounded” with burn and blast injuries, two severe burn victims, and one victims whose legs were amputated to extricate him from an overturned rail car he was trapped under. There were no firefighter injuries. He says it was an honor to have served that night with “true heroes” adding that there were many acts that night that exemplified the definition of hero that the general public may never know. He says he heard someone say that Cambria did a ‘pretty good job for a little volunteer fire department’ in its response. Mannel says (quote) “Cambria did a hell of a job for any fire department.” He says this incident was a perfect example of how a large-scale incident should be managed.