By Anne Eickstadt

COURTESY PHOTOS Belvidere Republican
The fire at FPM Heat Treat was clearly seen early on as it broke through the roof of the building.

Editor

At 5:17 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, Boone County Fire Station #2 received a call about a structure fire at FPM Heat Treat, 648 Bypass 20, Cherry Valley. “My first question,” said Fire Chief Kent Hulett, “was ‘is the fire in the ventilation system?’ due to previous incidents. The oil they use is combustible but not during normal production processes.

“Because of the heavy volume of smoke I could see as we were on our way, I knew it wasn’t our usual incident. I called the Cherry Valley Fire Department and they were actually the first ones on the scene. MABAS, law enforcement, EMS, and emergency management were all on site for this incident. We had a total of 28 agencies assisting during the eleven hours it took to get everything under control.

“No one was hurt. It was a high-risk operation but everyone got out. The first firefighters in were doing a search and rescue until we were able to determine that everyone was out of the 110,000 square foot building. The next thing we did was determine exactly where the fire was. We are still investigating the cause of the fire but we do know that it spread to the roof.

“We also utilized two thermal drones. This assisted us with location of the fire (greatest heat), thermal readings at the roof level and potential structural issues with the roof. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office and the Rockford Fire Dept. both used thermal drones at this fire.

“It was a long event. We had 27 firefighters just from Boone County Fire District 2 and close to 100 first responders. Our Women’s Auxiliary brought out snacks and water, the Salvation Army brought out hot food at about 1 or 2 a.m. We even had to bring in a port-a-potty because, obviously, we could not go into the burning, smoke-filled building to use the washroom. That’s something you wouldn’t normally think about.

“EMA had to refill 80 air canisters for the firefighters. There are no fire hydrants out there so we had close to 100,000 gallons of water tanked in. We also used 1400 gallons of fire fighting foam because using water on an oil fire doesn’t work. Because the structure fire turned into an oil fire, it took a lot more of our resources than usual. Three 5000 gallon tanks of oil went up in flames.

“We did not leave until 4 a.m.

“They are doing a massive cleanup out there now. FPM is a multi-million dollar business and it is currently shut down because of this incident. They are one of the largest manufacturers…

For complete article, pick up the Nov. 8 Belvidere Republican.