PORT TOWNSEND — East Jefferson Fire Rescue and Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue firefighters extinguished a fire at the Port Townsend Paper Mill on Tuesday morning.
One firefighter was taken to Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend for exhaustion-related symptoms, said Chief Bret Black in a press release.
The fire originated in a large concrete vault and no other damage was reported, Black said.
“It was confined to an isolated part of the building, but they needed us to keep it in check,” Black said Tuesday afternoon.
The cause of the fire has not been determined due to access issues.
“It was not safe to put anyone in the room. It was a confined space,” Black said.
“We had to stage ourselves back a ways and spray inside the vault,” he explained.
The building’s sprinklers were not activated, he said.
The firefighters who arrived first found light smoke coming from the sixth floor.
“The firefighters were able to lay a water supply and put water on the fire within approximately 7 minutes of arrival, which is pretty remarkable considering the access limitations and stairs,” said Battalion Chief Jason MacDonald, incident commander.
Although the fire was contained, firefighters would be committed for a while as they spray water into the vault from a safe vantage point, Black said early Tuesday afternoon.
“It is not safe to put firefighters in the confined space to fight the fire, so they are taking a defensive posture,” Black said.
“We have formal rehab set up with medical monitoring for our people.”
Clallam County Engine 37 was assigned to cover Station 15 at Jacob Miller Road.
“Volunteers from Station 13 helped staff the rehab unit for the incident, ensuring our crews are supported during the incident,” Black said.
Numerous off-duty personnel heeded the call for assistance and returned to staff stations, the chief said.
“EJFR is fortunate to have such a dedicated combination workforce (career and volunteer) that drops everything in their personal lives to come back to work supporting major incidents and their community,” Black said.
“We had other emergencies occurring during the mill fire leaving the first alarm assignment sub-optimal. Once again we found ourselves spread too thin,” Black said.
“But even if we had all on-duty personnel available, we still do not have enough firefighters.”
A standard response for a commercial structure fire at an industrial complex warrants a robust firefighting response requiring dozens of firefighters, according to National Fire Protection Association guidelines, Black said.
“As cited in our Standards of Cover, EJFR’s newly developed Community Risk Assessment identified the mill as one of several high hazards in the district, which recommends the addition of firefighters to EJFR’s minimum staffing,” he said in the release.