By Randy Mitchell
STRATFORD — A building in Stratford was nearly destroyed by fire Tuesday.
A large industrial building caught fire just after 1 p.m. when a welding torch ignited insulation. Tom Pickard, owner of Pickard Funeral Home, located across the street from the fire, said the fire caused thick black smoke to fill the town.
“When it first started, the wind was coming this way,” Pickard said. “The bank called and asked, ‘Do you want us to help you move cars from the funeral home?’”
Pickard, a former fire chief for Stratford, said most of the flames were contained inside the all metal building. Current Stratford Fire Chief Shawn Mann said an employee was “cutting some racks with a cutting torch on the north side of the building and (flames) just took off up the insulation and crawled up the back wall,” he said. Mann said the employee opened a large overhead door, which allowed more oxygen into the building, causing the fire to spread faster.
“I got a call that smoke was coming out of (the building),” Mann said. “He opened the door about the time I got here. By the time I got the truck up here, the smoke was so bad you couldn’t see across the highway. It went up in a matter of minutes.”
Firefighters were able to save some office furniture, an expensive air compressor, a large trailer and other items of value.
Witnesses said firefighters had the blaze extinguished in about 30 minutes.
“It took both engines and two hydrants to get all the water we could put on it,” Mann said. “We were pumping about 1400 gallons a minute out of both hydrants.”
Backhoes from city of Stratford and Garvin County were used to open large holes in the structure so firefighters could extinguish the fire quicker. Mann said their main goal, besides saving the contents of the building, was to keep it from spreading to nearby businesses.
The building was being leased by a company which anodizes aluminum auto parts, Mann said. Firefighters from Walker assisted Stratford in battling the blaze. One Walker firefighter received an injury during the incident.
“A piece of steel dropped and hit him in the finger while he was on the ladder,” Mann said. It smashed his finger a little bit. I don’t think it was broken.”
The firefighter was treated at the scene by Stratford EMS. Mann said three retired Stratford firefighters assisted at the scene.
“They were helping, running trucks and such,” Mann said. “Our three retirees sure helped. They were taking up the slack so we could do the busy work — Tom Pickard, Johnny Mann and Johnny Chandler came out to help.”