State and local firefighting officials are still working to determine the cause of Thursday night’s fire that led to several explosions and a total loss of the Red Diamond Diesel building near Centerville.
Even though they couldn’t stop the blaze from destroying Red Diamond Diesel, firefighters were able to prevent the fire from extending to nearby buildings, and no civilians or firefighters were injured, according to John Pardo, assistant fire chief for Centerville Fire/Rescue.
One major explosion took out the west side of the building, Pardo said, noting the large amount of solvents, oils and fuels inside aided tremendously in spreading the fire. During an investigation, remnants of a propane tank that blew up in the building were found.
The fire’s area of origin has been defined, but the cause is still being determined as of Saturday afternoon. Pardo said the department requested assistance from the Indiana state fire marshal’s office to assist with the extensive site at 4104 W. National Road in Richmond.
Pardo estimates the building is about 45 feet wide and 150 feet long.
By the time firefighters were alerted to the blaze, security cameras showed the fire was through the roof before they could tactically respond. Wayne County 911 received a call reporting the fire from a passerby shortly after 6 p.m.
Centerville Fire/Rescue was able to respond quickly from its station across the street from the blaze. Centerville added a second fire station last fall to help speed its response times to incidents on the community’s far-east side.
Pardo said it “absolutely” was helpful to have the station nearby because firefighters were “there in no time at all.”
However, the fire had such a head start by the time it was discovered that “there just wasn’t any stopping it,” Pardo said.
“You don’t like it, but you have to face the music,” Pardo said about the building being a total loss. Firefighters soon had to focus on preventing the damage from spreading.
Four or five vehicles stored inside the building were all destroyed, but firefighters were able to keep the four trucks outside the building from a similar fate. One had minor damage and three remained undamaged before Pardo’s Wrecker Service towed them away for protection.
Assistance came from a variety of sources. Richmond, Abington and Webster fire departments responded, with a total of 40 to 50 firefighters and about a dozen fire units on scene.
Centerville Fire/Rescue especially requested Richmond Fire Department’s help operating a drone to provide aerial shots of the building on fire and the surrounding area to help determine the point of origin. RFD coordinates use of the drone that was donated in 2018 by Wayne Bank for countywide use in emergencies as needed.
Pardo called the many forms of support the department received, ranging from the drone to food, as being blessings for the volunteers.
Centerville Fire/Rescue Auxiliary helped distribute refreshments for first responders throughout the evening, with donations from Americana Pizza in Centerville.
Pardo also “can’t say enough” about help provided by Wayne County 911 dispatchers during the incident.
Centerville and Richmond police departments and Wayne County Sheriff’s Department provided traffic control to block U.S. 40 for most of the eight hours firefighters were on scene to help keep first responders and civilians safe, and protect fire hoses from being run over by vehicles.
As they prepared to leave the scene, the road had to be treated for ice hazards. Temperatures had dipped into the middle 20s and water used to fight the fire had frozen in the roadway.
Wayne County Emergency Management Agency responded because of the large amount of chemicals in the building, as well as utility crews from Richmond Power & Light, Vectren and Indiana American Water.
Pardo said firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots. He suspected they would need to tear down the building immediately to contain the fire, and brought in a crew to do so, but later decided they wouldn’t have to take it down that night.
Pardo said the building is owned by Steve Hill of neighboring Hill Electric, and Red Diamond is owned and operated by David Ferguson.
– By Millicent Martin Emery