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Effects of Greencastle fire still felt

January 25, 2000|By DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A Mercersburg, Pa., man who was trapped in a burning warehouse for an hour Monday remained in critical condition Tuesday at a Baltimore, Md., hospital.

Firefighters pulled Terry P. Metcalfe, 42, 11760 Punch Bowl Road, from the burning Vision Warehousing & Distribution Inc. building at 255 N. Carlisle St. at 11:42 a.m., just over an hour after the fire was reported. He was taken to Waynesboro Hospital and flown to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Metcalfe was with a crew using a cutting torch to remove old pipes from the former cold storage plant. Sparks ignited foam insulation on the walls, quickly filling the building with thick black smoke.

"A lot of our guys were pretty determined to get in there and get him out," Greencastle Rescue Hose Co. Assistant Fire Chief Mike Luger said.

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It was the fire breaching the roof that helped three firefighters, Robbie Mellott, Danny Monn and Jamie Hammond, find Metcalfe. Luger said that allowed enough smoke to clear for them to see Metcalfe lying at the foot of a stairway.

Attempts to reach Metcalfe's family Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The blaze drew firefighters from as far away as Bedington, W.Va., Luger said. Fifty-five members of Greencastle Rescue Hose Co. were involved.

"We're estimating we had 150 to 200 firefighters at the peak of the fire," Luger said.

Seventy-five trucks, including 20 tankers, were called in from companies in Franklin, Adams, Fulton and Cumberland counties in Pennsylvania, Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland and Berkeley County in W.Va.

"This is the worst fire in Franklin County since the Wolfe Avenue Complex or the Frick Co.," Franklin County Communications Coordinator Bryan Stevenson said. Those fires took place in the late 1980s in Chambersburg and Waynesboro, Pa.

Luger said he had no dollar estimate on the damage to the warehouse, built in 1930. A newer addition to the rear was damaged by smoke and heat but not by fire, he said.

The last firefighters left the scene at 5:10 a.m. Tuesday, more than 18 hours after the fire was called in at 10:41 a.m. the previous day. Luger said Tuesday afternoon the fire was contained after about five hours, but "as we speak, it's still smoldering and burning."

Hundreds of thousands of gallons were poured onto the blaze, taxing the borough's water system. Borough Manager Ken Myers said the amount used had not been calculated by the Water Department, but "some parts of the system, depending on elevation ... had very little or no water pressure at all."

The worst time was between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. with pressure building back to normal levels over the next few hours, Myers said.

"We almost sucked the borough dry," Luger said. Tanker trucks ran back and forth from Marion, Pa., to draw water from a Guilford Water Authority hydrant to augment the borough supply.

"With the temperature dropping back below freezing last night there was water all over the street and we had some pretty severe icing problems," Myers said. Street crews were out overnight to apply salt and anti-skid material.

One Chambersburg, Pa., firefighter slipped and fell on the ice at about 12:30 a.m. Luger said. He was taken to Waynesboro Hospital for stitches to close a gash in his forehead.

Residents of a mobile home park just north of the warehouse were evacuated. Most returned to their homes Monday night, but Luger said residents of three homes were not allowed back until Tuesday because of the danger of a collapse of the building's north wall.

A "trackhoe" from D.L. George & Sons was brought in Monday night to push down what remained of the north wall to eliminate the hazard.

A house and a trailer were damaged when the north wall collapsed. They were still uninhabitable Tuesday, Luger said. Those who could not return home Monday night either stayed with family or friends or were put up at a motel by the Franklin County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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