How it happened: The firefight at Western Excelsior

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How it happened: The firefight at Western Excelsior

Firefighters battled an unstoppable force that burned out of control in minutes
Timeline: May 8, 2017

When exactly the fire began is unknown, but it triggered a smoke alarm shortly before a 911 call. Mill staff tried unsuccessfully to douse it with fire extinguishers and an emergency fire hose, but realized it had already grown significantly.
Investigators believe it started from a faulty ventilation fan in the attic in the center of the building complex and smoldered unnoticed, causing superheated air to build up throughout the attic and causing a flash-over fire in much of the building simultaneously.
12:55 p.m.: 911 call to dispatch from Western Excelsior
1:00 p.m.: The Mancos Fire Department arrives
1:16 p.m.: A call for mutual aid goes out to fire crews based in Cortez, Dolores, Lewis, Pleasant View, Rico, Farmington and San Juan County, New Mexico.
1:20 p.m.: Cortez and Dolores fire crews enter the building at northwest corner, as Mancos and Rico crews fight the fire from the southeast corner.
2:00 p.m.: The Pleasant View Fire Department arrives and contains the fire on northeast corner to prevent it from crossing Grand Avenue at the Monte Street intersection to a residential neighborhood.
2:00 p.m.: Incident commander Ray Aspromonte orders all firefighters out of the building.
2:05 p.m.: A flashover occurs in the warehouse, which is full of stacked excelsior product and superheated air and smoke.
2:15 p.m.: Plant Manager Keith Van Pelt asks firefighters to save the administration office on the complex’s west side. Crews venture inside, but back off after seeing a 50-foot wall of flame.
3:00 p.m.: The town of Mancos asks incident commander to find a new water source because the firefight has cut the town’s water supply by half.
3:15 p.m.: A 5-inch water line is laid down for 2,400 feet to the Mancos River, eastward on Riverside Avenue and southward on Spruce Street.
5:30 p.m.: Two 1,500-gallon-per-minute pumps draw water from the river to the fire. Pumping continues until 1 a.m.
5:00 p.m.: Main metal beams begin to fail, and the building starts to collapse in multiple areas.

Related Media
Graphic: The firefight

How it happened: The firefight at Western Excelsior

Sam Green/The Journal

The office building at Western Excelsior is destroyed and still smoldering Tuesday morning.
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