Fire Chief says response to massive fire "went as well as it cou - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Fire Chief says response to massive fire "went as well as it could"

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PITTSBURG, Ill. -- When firefighters from around southern Illinois rushed to Anderson’s Furniture Warehouse Saturday they were fighting much more than a major fire, they were also battling the heat. 

"I’ve been member since 1978," Pittsburg fire Chief Jim Merrow said. "That was the biggest."

With the heat index hovering at around 105 degrees for much of the day, keeping the firefighters hydrated and cool was just as important as fighting the fire.

"You’re baking, you’re literally baking," Merrow said. "15 minutes and whatever it took to get them standing and feeling better, and back out.

"The firefighting was going to take care of itself. You put water on the heat and the fire, but if you don’t keep your people standing and moving you’re losing."

More than 120 firefighters from at least 21 departments across five counties responded to handle the blaze, bringing much-needed extra equipment and manpower. 

"If you need a firetruck you don’t care what the door says," Merrow said. "You need a big red truck."

But with the massive response came a major strain on resources.

"We knew the municipal water system wasn’t going handle the amount of equipment coming," Merrow said.

Merrow says it took more than a half a million gallons to contain the fire. That’s enough water fill up an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Throughout the day, crews carted in hundreds of thousands of gallons to keep the fire contained and under control..

While the building is a loss, Merrow says the lack of injuries and overpowering response was a win in his book, "It’s a tragedy but it wasn’t a train wreck."

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