Poplar Bluff motorcycle business destroyed by fire

Friday, February 4, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- State and federal fire investigators continue sifting through the rubble at Dale's Motorcycle Center after a Wednesday night fire destroyed the business.

A motorist calling 911 at 9:12 p.m. Wednesday reported the fire to the Butler County Sheriff's Department, which forwarded the call to city responders, according to Poplar Bluff fire chief Ralph Stucker.

When the first truck pulled up at the business, located at 1959 S. Westwood Blvd., "flames were coming through the roof toward the back of the building," Stucker explained. "The front windows had already come out.

"There was heavy smoke throughout the whole area. [Firefighters] couldn't see in the building anywhere."

Stucker said an "attack crew" was deployed through the south doors. "They got in about 75 feet into the building … [and] found a tremendous amount of fire.

"They hit the fire [with water]; that didn't do anything. The magnesium off of the bikes, when the water hit, that popped pretty good."

Stucker said firefighters had to pull back out and go into what he described as defensive mode.

Firefighters, he said, gained access to all sides of the building.

In addition to the magnesium popping, "we had several explosions inside the building," which contained such items as solvents and cleaner aerosols.

"They had propane bottles in there," Stucker said. "One blew up; we found it this morning."

There also were empty barrels of racing fuel, which had the potential to explode because of the "vapors building up inside," Stucker said. " … We had one crew cooling down tanks inside the building [including] one propane [tank] on the back of a fork lift."

At one point, Stucker said, the roof toward the back of the building caved in.

Once the fire was under control, Stucker said, firefighters checked for hot spots using the department's thermal imaging camera.

Personnel, he said, remained on the scene until about 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

Stucker said when the fire was reported, personnel from all three stations responded. "We did a full call back; we got everybody back in except three," he said. "We had about 26 personnel on the scene."

Bitter cold made firefighting "very difficult," Stucker said. "Any water that hit the ground turned to ice in almost less than a minute.

"All of that in front [of the business] is concrete … We contacted the street department to come throw out some salt for better traction."

Several firefighters, he said, fell, including some multiple times.

"We brought out our rehab truck here, which also has our spare air," Stucker said. "We kept rotating guys in there to warm up. They would warm up a bit and then go back.

" …For the conditions they had when they got here, the guys did a fantastic job [given what] they had to deal with. The fire had a tremendous head start."

Stucker said Jason Dunn, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal's Office, was on the scene early Thursday morning continuing his investigation.

"We're waiting on a second [investigator] from the Cape [Girardeau] area," Stucker said. Butch Amann, he said, was expected to arrive some time Thursday morning.

"They've activated the [Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire & Explosives] investigative unit, [which was] coming in later this morning," Stucker said. "With the business, that is not unusual [since the business deals] in interstate commerce."

With local personnel having fought the fire and the fire involving a commercial building, "we bring in automatically" the state investigators, Stucker said. "The state has protocol on when they call ATF."

Pertinent address:

1959 S. Westwood Blvd., Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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