Three-alarm fire in Genesee County draws dozens of departments

PHOTO: Video News Service
PHOTO: Video News Service

ELBA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A three-alarm fire destroyed an onion storage and packaging facility in Genesee County, and had as many as 100 departments from five counties involved.

Investigators say the fire was difficult to control because of the building’s construction and a lack of water.

A hunter noticed smoke and flames coming from a storage and packaging building at Big O Farms in Elba around 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

The first crews who arrived on the scene at North Bergen and Transit roads immediately called for backup because of the lack of water.

Tankers had to truck water in from nearby ponds and streams that were still low because of this summer’s drought.

“Water source was our biggest concern,” said Genesee County Fire Coordinator Tim Yaeger. “There’s only one hydrant that serves this area, and it’s kind of a small capacity hydrant system. So all the water had to be tanked in. And the recent low water levels we’ve had in the region, many of the water sources the fire department would use normally, were pretty diminished.”

There was no one inside the building working because of the holiday, and the last employees left at 5 p.m. Wednesday, investigators said.

Although the investigation is still in its early stages, fire officials believe a packaging machine is linked to the cause.

Because of the number of fire fighters involved, the Salvation Army set up a tent to provide crews with some relief.

“We got a call and we’re going to respond and they’re passionate about it,” said Lt. Brad Moore, of the Salvation Army. “We’ve got a great group of volunteers that love to serve and give back, and it’s all out of the kindness of their hearts. Really we just want to be here to help and to serve and luckily this isn’t a house fire.”

Nearly every fire company from Genesee County responded, as well as some from Orleans and Monroe counties. Departments from Niagara and Wyoming counties were put on standby to assist if needed.

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