Firefighters were kept busy on a rainy and windy evening last Friday as back-to-back blazes broke out on opposite ends of Lancaster County, one causing significant damage to a local solar business.
The first fire struck around 5:15 p.m. in East Earl Township in a large barn housing Rhino Voltz, a local business selling solar charge kits, lithium batteries and other accessories. A second fire broke out around 5:45 p.m. at a home in Penn Township, forcing a family to evacuate from the structure.
According to Garden Spot Fire Rescue in New Holland:
Crews were dispatched to the 200 block of Stauffer Road in East Earl Township for the report of an outbuilding on fire. Firefighters arrived and found a 40×80-foot one-story shop with smoke emanating from all sides of the building.
An interior attack was started to suppress the flames while other arriving units began opening up the building and deploying backup lines. During the initial operation, crews encountered several small explosions inside the structure and “rainbow colored flames.”
Firefighters learned that the shop housed “many pallets” and rack storage of lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries of various sizes, causing an extreme hazard to crews on the scene. The Lancaster County HazMat team, along with the Lebanon County Special Operations Team, were dispatched to the scene for “metering and assistance with material disposal.”
An engine at the scene was sent to a fill-site pond around 600 feet away from the fire. After firefighters gained access to the meadow with the pond, the engine was unable to fill up because of “fainting goats falling in front of the unit,” causing it to stop in the wet ground.
Additional tankers were dispatched to the scene to establish a water supply at the rural setting. Tanker trucks from around Lancaster County streamed up Staffer Road for several hours.
Firefighters were able to knock down most of the blaze by 6:30 p.m. Crews remained on the scene until 2:30 a.m. monitoring the burning debris. The barn was a total loss, but a damage estimate was not available.
Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were also sent to monitor any environmental concerns.
The contents of the building were placed into dumpsters provided by Eagle Disposal & B&L Carson Disposal and moved into a field across the road from the business to allow it to burn. Officials said the materials could remain on fire for up to two weeks.
Stauffer Road remains closed to through traffic because of “shrapnel and debris being expelled from the dumpsters.”
“There is no immediate health risk to [the] public from the burning dumpsters,” officials from Garden Spot Fire said in a press release. “As of now, allowing the dumpsters and material to burn is the safest way to handle the product disposal. HazMat and DEP officials will be monitoring the scene over the next few days.”
Penn Township Fire
Shortly after the East Earl fire broke out, a second fire started at a home in the 600 block of Mallard Drive in Penn Township, just outside of Manheim.
According to Manheim Fire Chief Andrew Kirchner:
Crews were dispatched for the report of flames showing from a residence. Firefighters were on the scene within a few minutes, finding a small fire and flames showing from above the garage roof.
Investigators believe the fire started in a bathroom area above the garage and was electrical in nature.
Three people were inside the house at the time of the fire, including one wheelchair-bound individual. All three residents were able to escape safely before firefighters arrived.
Firefighters were able to knock down the blaze within 10 minutes, keeping most of the damage contained to the garage area and away from the main part of the home. About 1,000 gallons of water was used to knock down the flames.
Kirchner said the development where the house was located is “notorious” for being difficult to fight fires because of one small road entry point to gain access to the homes.
About 50 firefighters from nine different companies responded to the scene. Crews remained on the scene until around 7:30 p.m.
A damage estimate was unavailable. The Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal was investigating the cause of the blaze.