Massive clouds of black smoke filled the sky Monday afternoon along Route 60 near Webster Road in Fredonia as two buildings belonging to Hills Trucking caught fire and eventually burned to the ground.
Fire departments from the surrounding area battled the blaze, hampered in their efforts by a lack of immediately available water. Tanker trucks were busy refilling, emptying their loads, and then returning for more water.
A Webster Road hydrant was eventually put into service with a lengthy stretch of hose running across Route 60 to the fire scene. A series of small explosions were heard coming from the buildings as the blaze intensified. During one of the explosions, a smaller metal tank was propelled to an area adjacent to where some fire trucks and firefighters were set up.
Traffic on Route 60 was redirected, with vehicles in lengthy lines several times. The New York State Department of Transportation issued a road closure alert at 2:15 p.m., stating that all Route 60 lanes would be closed between Straight and Webster roads for up to six hours due to the structure fire. That closure was lifted at 7:50 p.m.
Fredonia Fire Department Chief Derek Jordan was in charge at the scene and described what happened.
"We responded to a report of a tractor-trailer fire, the tractor-trailer being inside a building at Hills Trucking," Jordan began. "When we got on the scene the building was fully engulfed. We had the fire under control in about two hours. Between the vehicle tires and gases that were inside the buildings the heat was tremendous. My initial report was about 200 tires. I think it was more about 150 tires I was told were stored inside the building along with acetylene gases, propane tanks and oils."
OBSERVER Photo by Don Kohler
Hills Trucking, located near the corner of Route 60 and Webster Road in Fre-donia, was the scene of a large fire on Monday afternoon.
Jordan said hazmat was called.
"There was unknown chemicals inside one of the structures. We wanted to just bring hazmat up as a precaution," he explained.
Jordan was asked if providing adequate water to the scene was a problem.
"It was a good amount of the problem at first, just getting all the tankers and everybody here situated. It was a problem at first but it wasn't a big problem," he replied. "The buildings were both pretty much fully engulfed when we got here. It was pretty much exterior fighting only and doing the best we can with the water supply we had. We were drawing water from numerous sources around.
Jordan was contacted just before 8 p.m. and said excavation work and putting out hotspots was all that was left for firefighters to do as fire investigators did their work. He added there were no injuries at the scene.
Departments seen at the fire included the city of Dunkirk, East and West Town of Dunkirk, Fredonia, Sheridan, Sunset Bay, Hanover, Cassadaga, Stockton and Chautauqua County Emergency Services.
According to its website, Hills Trucking is owned and operated by Norman Hills and has been in the area since 1965. The company's address is listed as 9667 Route 60 in Fredonia.
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