NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford fire fighters responded to a two-alarm fire in an industrial building in the North End early Saturday Evening.
At about 5:30 p.m. fire fighters were notified of a fire at 355 Church St., the site of Clean Uniforms & More, according to New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes.
He said the crew from Station 8, located a little more than a mile down the road on Davis Street near Acushnet Avenue was the first to respond. The Tarkiln Hill Road station, Station 9, located roughly 0.7 miles away from the scene, was blacked out for the day.
"If you ask anyone, everyone would like to have every fire engine open on every single day," Gomes said. "We have to make decisions based on the fiscal realities we deal with on a daily basis. We try to provide the best coverage we can with the resources we’re provided."
The chief on the scene signaled a second alarm — stepping up the department's response to five engines and two ladders trucks — due to the size of the building and the heavy smoke condition involved, he said.
A strong odor of chemicals filled the evening air.
An additional special hazard truck aided in refilling oxygen tanks as crew members ran with two tanks per person, rushing to be refilled. At about 6 p.m. a Rhode Island based fire and police rehab unit truck showed up to help the crews replenish with food and water.
That left one engine and one ladder to cover the rest of the city, Gomes said, which led to the request of additional support from neighboring towns of Acushnet, Fairhaven and Dartmouth in the event of a secondary emergency.
Gomes noted the large, confusing floor plan with the origin of the fire located in the middle of the building.
"The crew had to make their way through a labyrinth of machinery and other things with visibility down to the floor," he said. "It was a challenging response for the crew."
Gomes described the crews crawling down low to the ground using a thermal camera for guidance to the point of origin.
"They basically crawled their way to the fire to extinguish it," he said.
The building's sprinkler system was able to hold the main body of fire in a specific area, he said, but in that area there were large bags of laundry hanging from the ceiling. Gomes said the bags were melting and on fire, creating a concern that they may fall on his crew.
"The crews did an outstanding job, the fire was contained to its point of origin," he said. "I don't believe it will have a heavy impact on the operation to be back in business Monday morning."
Fire officials had not yet determined the cause of the fire, but an investigation is pending.
Gomes said the building was closed at the time, with the last workers leaving for the day earlier in the afternoon. He said there were no injuries.
By roughly 6:51 p.m. fire fighters began dissembling the fire hoses, signaling the end of the fire.
"I’m very satisfied with the response time today," he said.
Follow Wesley Sykes on Twitter @WesleySykes_SCT.