Firefighters from March help put out large blaze

March Air Reserve Base Truck #5 arrives at the scene of the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

March Air Reserve Base Truck #5 arrives at the scene of the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

A March Air Reserve Base firefighter assesses the scene after the team applied the foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

A March Air Reserve Base firefighter assesses the scene after the team applied the foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

Several March Air Reserve Base firefighters move hoses after containing the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

Several March Air Reserve Base firefighters move hoses after containing the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Christianson)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CA -- On the evening of June 26, the March ARB fire department received a call to respond to a raging fire in nearby Riverside. 

"I was just sitting in my room watching TV, relaxing and waiting for dinner when we received the call for a mutual aid request for our crash vehicle," said fire engineer Billy Mathews, the acting captain for the vehicle that day. "When I went in the alarm room ... they had the fire on the news and it was really burning." 

The fire started shortly after 4 p.m. at Unlimited Plastics Inc., a plastic recycling building located near the Interstate 215/Highway 60 junction near downtown Riverside. Due to the amount of thick black smoke pouring into the surrounding skies and covering the nearby roadways, the highways around the fire were closed in the midst of peak hour traffic. 

"When we showed up the whole place was literally on fire. It was one of the biggest I have been to," said Mr. Mathews. 

"I don't even know how high it was," added fire fighter Tim Hill. "It was ridiculously high and thick. It was huge and it was really cooking." 

The crew from March consisted of Mr. Mathews, Mr. Hill and fire engineers Chris Christianson and Dan Cavelaro. 

This particular March truck, which very rarely goes out, was called because of its unique capacity to launch large amounts of foam on top of a blaze, rather than just water. This function is needed in the case of aircraft fires. 

"Thankfully, there are not a lot of airplane fires, but this was very close and similar to what an aircraft fire would be," said Mr. Christianson. 

When the crew arrived they joined approximately a dozen other trucks all fighting vigorously to tame the flames and were greeted by, according to Mr. Christianson, "ominous black smoke." 

Once in place, March's truck laid a bed of foam across the burning area, significantly reducing the flames. The firefighters from base worked until about midnight resupplying foam and helping to extinguish smaller fires amidst the charred rubble. 

"Helping out with the surrounding communities shines a good light on the fire department and March ARB in general," said Mr. Christianson. "It shows that we have the right stuff - the right equipment and the right training." 

The crew said many of the firefighters from the community were commending them on a job well done and thanking them for helping out. 

"I think they were pretty impressed with what we can do and we received a lot of thank you's," said Mr. Hill. "We all share a mutual respect and we worked very well together." 

According to the acting vehicle captain, Mr. Mathews, the crew from March excelled, going into the situation both knowledgeable and enthusiastic to help out. 

"I couldn't have asked for more," he said. 

Approximately five acres were scorched by the fire, though the evacuation of local residences was not required. Some firefighters remained until the next day to ensure the smaller fires were completely extinguished. This was the second fire at Unlimited
Plastics, Inc., in the past couple of years.