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WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 15, 2012, 06:14 PM

Tremendous amount of resources dedicated to fighting Moorhead plant fire

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - Fire crews have finally left the Pactiv Plant in Moorhead after spending nearly 24 hours fighting flames, smoke and hot spots in one of the biggest fires the city has ever seen. More than 100 firefighters from departments in Cass and Clay Counties helped fight the fire that started about 3 Wednesday afternoon.

Fire crews have finally left the Pactiv Plant in Moorhead after spending nearly 24 hours fighting flames, smoke and hot spots in one of the biggest fires the city has ever seen. More than 100 firefighters from departments in Cass and Clay Counties helped fight the fire that started about 3 Wednesday afternoon.

Fire officials say the toughest thing about fighting the blaze is the amount of combustible materials inside the plant. Pactiv makes, among other things, egg cartons from recycled newspapers.

Jeff Wallin – Moorhead Assistant Fire Chief: “We've got mutual aid from Fargo and six other fire departments that are helping us out with water supply today, so it's still a major undertaking for us.”

It has taken an incredible amount of water to contain this fire, and eventually, put it out; enough water to affect the entire city of Moorhead.

The last crew left the Pactiv plant a short while ago. Now, after 24 hours, company officials and fire inspectors are getting their first chance to fully assess the damage. The fire has used so much water the city of Moorhead was actually forced to reroute much of its supply.

With 100 sprinkler heads inside using almost 2,000 gallons of water a minute and the department pulling another 1,500 gallons a minute from the hydrant, crews were using more than 200,000 gallons of water per minute.

Rich Duysen – Moorhead Fire Chief: “They're making more water through Moorhead Public Service and they're giving us the resources we need.”

Not only did the city reroute more water to that part of the city, but rural departments have been consistently bringing in two, three and four thousand gallon tankers to fill these dump tanks.

Kurt Kennedy – Dilworth Fire Chief: “We do a lot of drafting, it's easier to set up drop tanks when they have low water supply in this area because it's a smaller main and this is a big building.”

It wasn't just water issues that made this fire one of the most intense the city has ever seen.

Rich Duysen: “When you look at some of the skin to the building, it had to be 1,000 degrees in spots.”

The heat inside the plant was so intense that steel was buckling, and crews didn't actually reach the middle of the building until several hours after the fire had already started.

Rich Duysen: “This is just an astronomical event. You plan the best you can, the system was designed properly, but because of the amount of combustibles and where the fire started, it was the perfect storm.”

It’s estimated fire crews used more than 4 million gallons of water to contain and eventually put out this tremendous fire. Messages left for company officials about the status of the plants employees have went unreturned.

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