UPDATED: Firefighters extinguish 2 alarm fire at Shaw Industries in Irmo
Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) – Shortly after 7:00 a.m. Thursday, firefighters from the Irmo Fire District and Lexington County responded to a report of a commercial structure fire at Shaw Industries at 4401 St. Andrews Road near Irmo. When they arrived at the industrial complex, they were directed to a building they described as a warehouse at the large industrial complex. Shaw makes fibers used in the manufacturing of floor coverings.
The Irmo Fire District’s Headquarters Fire Station is adjacent to Shaw so from dispatch to arrival took just moments. When the first teams arrived, an assessment of the fire began. The first attack teams described finding heavy smoke and flames in the building.
Even though the building was equipped with automatic fire sprinklers that activated, the fire appeared to have outpaced those to a free burning stage. In reality, firefighters were seeing special lights through the smoke in the building that made the flames seem more intense. The fire was still creating dangerous conditions and was an incident that would require time and multiple resources to extinguish.
Irmo’s initial teams began a fire attack and an aerial truck was raised so crews could continue their assessment of the extent of the fire from above. They eventually had to saw several holes in the roof of the building to let smoke escape and have the fire show itself. Resources from Columbia and Lexington County arrived, and their crews were immediately thrown into the effort to put the fire out.
Just before 7:30 a.m., the incident commander struck a second alarm bringing additional engines, ladders, and manpower to assist the firefighters already on scene. The first due teams were already receiving assistance from several of those departments. The second alarm added more trucks and manpower from the two cities and Lexington County. Lexington County EMS had already been dispatched in the initial response and were standing by on the fire ground.
Irmo Fire District's Battalion Chief Brad Wells, who was the incident commander, said that the fire was in a stack of cardboard that had somehow ignited inside the building. The reports he received from his crews made it seems as if the fire was more intense because the sprinklers were holding the smoke low and helping to keep the fire in check. Once the building was ventilated, the smoke began to clear and the true size of the fire was revealed. Wells said that they eventually had to cut water to the sprinklers to allow the fire to be found. He had advanced the fire to the 2nd alarm out of an abundance of caution but certainly appreciated all the help the District received from the other departments.
Lexington County commanders began ordering their remaining resources to reposition at strategic locations across Lexington County. This was being done to ensure coverage to areas whose equipment and manpower were already committed to the Shaw fire.
At the height of the response, Irmo was using help provided from the Lexington County Fire Service, and the cities of Columbia and West Columbia’s Fire Departments. Irmo’s incident commander ordered the staging area to be moved from the parking lot of Shaw to the Bi-Lo parking lot next door.
The “Super Fan” from the town of Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department also arrived. This is a trailer mounted fan much like an airboat that can force smoke and heat from a large burning building. It’s the only fan of its size in the Midlands.
By 9:00 a.m. the fire was under control and many of the trucks and manpower that responded to assist Irmo were being released from the scene. Irmo’s crews stayed on the scene for some time as they combed through the area of the fire searching for its cause and make sure everything is completely out. All but one of Irmo's trucks had left the scene by 9:30 Thursday morning.