About 30 volunteer fire fighters attended Tuesday night’s East Street fire debriefing, along with Honesdale Borough Council President Ed Langendoefer and Councilwoman Margie Rickard, Safety Committee Chairperson.

“It is standard practice, when you have a major fire, to do a debriefing afterwards to look at the way things went. The intent is not to criticize what was done here, but ...if there were problems, to find those problems and work to find solutions,” said Honesdale Fire Chief Stan Pratt.

An inadequate water supply was the front runner, but crowd control was also a problem.


About 30 volunteer fire fighters attended Tuesday night’s East Street fire debriefing, along with Honesdale Borough Council President Ed Langendoefer and Councilwoman Margie Rickard, Safety Committee Chairperson.


“It is standard practice, when you have a major fire, to do a debriefing afterwards to look at the way things went. The intent is not to criticize what was done here, but ...if there were problems, to find those problems and work to find solutions,” said Honesdale Fire Chief Stan Pratt.


An inadequate water supply was the front runner, but crowd control was also a problem. “We could not keep people back. People came through safety tape.” The Chief said they need to come up with a way to staff an information center during a major incidence, “so that if you have people that are concerned about relatives, you can send them to somebody.”


Spectators were a big problem. “They just didn’t want to get back. And I’m sure a number of those spectators found that they felt like they had sunburn that night. It wasn’t sunburn, it was burns from that fire.” Pratt says there were hundreds of spectators and they were everywhere. 
The Chief says the public also gave the fire police a hard time because roads were blocked off and they weren’t allowed through.  

 
Hydrant system inadequate   
Pratt said the current hydrant system in the Honesdale Borough is inadequate. “Considering the types of construction, the size of the buildings and their proximity to one another, how close together they are, there is not enough water in those neighborhoods for a major fire. I am sure that the fire department and the borough will be working with the water company in the future to mark out strategies.”


Chief Pratt says part of the solution is fewer, and better hydrants. “Another thing that we are looking to have the Borough work out with the water company is a regular scheduled maintenance of these hydrants.” A fire hydrant at 12th and Main streets, near the China Castle, was unusable. The Chief figures they could have gotten another 2,000 gallons of water per minute of it, had it been working. He’s unsure if it was broken to begin with or stiff and broke when fire crews tried to open it.   

        
Would more water have made a difference in the September 18 fire? “The people worked well enough that had we had more water, I don’t think that the end result would have been much different. Perhaps we would have been able to save more of the second structure, but it would have been no different whatsoever on the primary fire building. You might have had less siding damage on some of the other houses,” the Chief said. 

   Points discussed at the East Street fire debriefing:
• Chief Pratt says they want to ask PennDOT to leave the ramp at the Church Street Bridge (on the 12th Street side), so fire apparatus can drive down to the river.
• Considering installing dry hydrants at 12th Street, possibly 4th Street, Apple Grove, and other locations.   
• Chief Pratt said they had great cooperation with PPL Electric and the gas company, UGI, shutting down the fire-affected area. Department of Public Works (DPW) also worked well with the fire department.
• “The Borough is going to work with us to try to put something in place that in a major emergency, we can call for and get off-duty police officers back in.,” Pratt said. The Chief said Honesdale Borough Police Officers on scene did an excellent job.
• Leaving windows and doors open feeds a fire. ”The fact that people left doors open for pets to get out, caused much more rapid fire spread ...I understand their desire to get their pets out. But that got a straight shot for this draft up through this whole building ...If you have a fire in your home, get out of the home, close the doors and windows as you go, if it’s possible and call the fire department. I’m sorry about pets, but they probably have a better chance if you close it all up...Pets usually will hide in the case of a fire. If you slow that fire spread down, the fire department can get there and knock it down. Your pets have a chance. Nothing had a chance in that building.”


Leaving the doors open turned the apartment into a chimney, the Chief said. “It just gave it all the air that it needed to breathe to burn fiercely. And it gave it a place for that burn gases to go. And that’s what a fire needs to go,” he said. “Having the front door closed would have cut off the fresh air supply or greatly reduced it. Having the doors in the back, on the second floor closed, would have made it so the heated gases had no place to go. Would it have made a difference in this case? I don’t know. But a rule of thumb, you want to avoid opening a building up like that,” he said.