I admit that I did not keep in mind, however my buddy Lois Seymour did, that it was the thirtieth anniversary of a monstrous hearth that broke out on Could 3, 1991, at Madison’s Central Storage & Warehouse Co.. It was later proclaimed to have been Madison’s largest hearth ever by hearth division officers.
The fireplace on the big meals storage facility on Cottage Grove Street and Freeway 51/151 in east Madison was later attributed to a forklift battery malfunction. The ensuing blaze on the sprawling 500,00 sq. foot website took greater than every week to extinguish due to burning insulation and a few 20 million kilos of what we known as “authorities butter, cheese and meat”.
The nice butter hearth
Madison Hearth Division Chief Steven Davis had been with Madison Hearth Division for only a couple years. He stated the food-related disaster he witnessed was in contrast to something he or anybody else within the division has seen since.
Davis didn’t arrive as a part of the preliminary response, however he obtained there in time to see the surface partitions of the constructing collapse and let free a wave of melted butter that engulfed every little thing close by.
“It actually was a river of butter,” he stated.
The vehicles, ladders, and different gear have been all in the course of the sweet-cream pond. Davis stated there was at the least 5 toes of butter collected in low spots and that the extra water firefighters used, the extra “gooey, stuff flowed out of the constructing.”
“In all my coaching and expertise, I’d by no means come throughout something prefer it. Even the old-timers had by no means seen something prefer it,” he stated.
Fatty dairy moat
At one level whereas battling the blaze, Davis was despatched to the roof of an adjoining constructing the place he and some others targeted a hose on the hearth for about eight hours. When he lastly got here down from the roof at 5:30 a.m. the subsequent day, he and his crew tried to maneuver the hose line additional between the 2 buildings. He stepped off a loading dock onto what he thought was stable floor and immediately discovered himself as much as his chest in melted butter.
The butter additionally fueled the flames, creating much more challenges.
Madison hearth crews have been on-site for days making an attempt to place out the hearth. A fatty dairy moat saved the ladder vehicles from getting out and the gas vehicles from getting in, so mechanics needed to carry five-gallon buckets of diesel gas via the butter river to make sure the vehicles saved operating.
MFD’s job was to place out the hearth whereas trudging upstream via a butter flood. Nevertheless it was the Wisconsin Division of Pure Useful resource’s duty to verify the butter river didn’t make it to the close by lakes and streams.
Containing the butter
Two and a half hours after firefighters arrived on the scene, the hearth had unfold to a second constructing and a 3rd alarm was made. 5 hours later the constructing collapsed and the hearth threatened the power’s anhydrous ammonia tanks, spurring an evacuation of roughly 3,000 residents inside a half mile radius of the hearth. Fortunately firefighters have been in a position to push again the hearth.
In accordance with the state DNR’s information, the hearth resulted within the launch of 1,000 kilos of anhydrous ammonia; 5,000 tons of meals merchandise together with hams, scorching canines, bakery gadgets, and cranberries; and 12,500 tons of dairy merchandise, principally butter and cheese.
Archives estimate the losses at $7.5 million in property damages and $70 million in contents.
To comprise the sludge runoff, the DNR constructed a number of dams to guard Starkweather Creek, a tributary that connects to Lake Monona.
Two state DNR wardens have been on website to work with crews from Madison’s metropolis engineering and public works departments to steer the butter river right into a storm water discharge (pond 1) beneath the close by freeway overpass.
In accordance with the DNR water needed to be pumped out of pond 1 and throughout the railroad tracks into one other pond (pond 2) as a result of the butter was flowing in quicker than it could possibly be despatched into the sanitary sewer.
By the tip of Could 4 greater than 3 million gallons of melted butter and hearth runoff had been pumped into the sanitary sewer. However on Could 5, the rains got here and the rising water ranges threatened to ship the butter flood during the last dam and into Starkweather Creek. The DNR needed to rapidly construct one other two dams earlier than midday.
By Could 6, after one other 11 million gallons had been pumped into the sanitary sewer. The fireplace was underneath management however one thing needed to be performed about all of the congealed butter that had gathered within the two ponds. The DNR stated the U.S. Division of Agriculture introduced in salvage contractors to take away the meals waste.
The next few weeks have been devoted to cleansing up: hauling big piles of meat and rubble to the Dane County Landfill, staying forward of rain and warmth that re-melted the congealed butter, and regularly pumping butter out of ponds 1 and a couple of.
About two weeks after the hearth broke out, the DNR stated efforts to clear the spoiling meat merchandise and hold the melted butter out of close by waterways have been a “success.”
Davis stated the DNR monitored the close by waterways and only a few fish died after the hearth. He known as it exceptional because the butter river appeared so rapidly, giving crews barely any time to assemble supplies and construct embankments.
All instructed the cleanup value roughly $550,000, which was lined largely by CSW and a grant from the USDA.
Of their try to wash up all of the butter MFD was pressured to throw away practically all of the firefighter gear that was used. Davis stated since he was nonetheless new to the job, he obtained caught with steam cleansing the hoses that weren’t utterly destroyed by the butter immersion.
Davis described the cumulative impact as a rotten odor, one which has lasted for “years and years” at a close-by hearth station.
CSW has been rebuilt and any hint of the mighty butter river that when flowed via the world has vanished.
Be aware: The butter and cheese have been certainly authorities surplus from the farmer milk cost program in impact on the time. Farmers have been paid a given value, their milk was processed and the butter, cheese and different dairy merchandise have been saved and have become a part of giveaway applications. The Madison warehouse was however one in every of many such throughout the nation used for the excess storage.
Dairy coverage has modified a number of occasions within the years because the hearth however I nonetheless keep in mind jokingly calling the hearth “the dairy surplus solver.” However in these 30 years since, the dairy pricing coverage dialogue continued with milk manufacturing and demand nonetheless a political and dairy problem.
John Oncken could also be reached at email@example.com.