Seven fire companies responded to an early-morning alarm at the Eastwood Co. warehouse on Robinson Street Thursday for a blaze at the auto restoration supplier. Pottstown Fire Chief Richard Lengel said the alarm sounded at 4:52 a.m. when the sprinkler system at the business tripped.
The fire was caused by a malfunction in the conveyer system, although it’s not exactly clear how that happened, Lengel said. All four of Pottstown’s fire companies — Goodwill, Empire, North End and the Phillies — responded to the scene as did Sanatoga, West End and Limerick fire companies from neighboring communities, Lengel said.
New Hanover and Ringing Hill were on call while the fire was being fought. The fire itself was “not very big, it was under control by 5:21 a.m.,” Lengel said. The primary problem for firefighters was finding the flames. “The sprinkler did its job, so the place was filled with smoke and we had a hell of a time finding the actual fire,” Lengel said.
Because of all the automotive restoration products in the building, and the chemicals they contain, Lengel said the firefighters used air masks for the first hour as a precaution. Estimating the damage is difficult, Lengel said, because he does not know the value of the conveyer system, “which may be computerized, I couldn’t be sure” and because of the amount of water damage done to very specialized automotive products.
“But without the sprinklers, we wouldn’t have a building, and we would still be there now, and tomorrow and maybe the next day,” Lengel told The Mercury Thursday evening. “I’m serious, that’s a high-rack warehouse in there and who knows how long some of that stuff might have burned.”