The City of Marlin Fire Department was dispatched at 4:47 p.m. on July 1 to the intersection of Wood Street and Commerce Street for a report of thick black smoke coming from a building. A crew arrived on scene at 4:51 p.m. to find visible smoke from the exterior of a two-story commercial building at 129 Commerce Street.
Due to the building’s size and its proximity to other structures, the first arriving fire officer immediately requested mutual aid assistance from the Marlin Volunteer Fire Department. Fire and smoke conditions forced the other crews to take defensive firefighting operations.
The first arriving fire officer requested the response of all fire departments within Falls County. City of Marlin Fire Chief Justin Parker arrived on-scene with the first arriving units from Marlin VFD. Marlin VFD’s ladder truck was promptly placed in service to apply an elevated, high-volume water stream to the fire building. A high-volume apparatus mounted water turret and high-volume ground turret were also placed in service.
Fire conditions and the application of high pressure and high-volume water streams necessitated the establishment of a collapse zone around the fire building. Due to the high potential for fire spread throughout the downtown area, Chief Parker started requesting firefighting resources from neighboring counties. Off-duty City of Marlin Fire Department personnel were notified of the incident and responded to the scene.
Crews from Bremond VFD (Robertson County), Kosse VFD (Limestone County) and Robinson VFD (McLennan County) and ladder companies from Calvert VFD (Robertson County), Bellmead FD (McLennan County) and Hewitt FD (McLennan County) responded. Several water tenders from neighboring fire departments were staged near the scene as a precautionary measure. Downed electrical wires, high radiant heat and imminent wall collapse restricted access to the building’s south side. However, firefighters got access to the back of the building to extinguish a vegetation fire and protect nearby structures.
Falling embers from the massive smoke column and flames ignited spot fires on the roofs of several downtown buildings. Homes and businesses within the historic downtown area were evacuated as a precautionary measure.
The large turnout of firefighters, fire apparatus, and quick-thinking citizens led to the identification and extinguishing of spot fires. All affected buildings were reassessed by firefighters to ensure complete extinguishing.
An attached building on the fire building’s north side sustained significant flame, smoke and water damage due to the fire. The second floor of this building – which was addressed as 125 Commerce Street and formerly served as a restaurant – was where the fire’s progress was stopped.
At the height of the incident, a total of twelve fire departments and countless other public and private sector agencies were on scene. The Heart of Texas Fire Corps, along with Falls Community Hospital and Clinic and various other individuals and organizations, provided dozens of emergency personnel with food, water, and sports drinks. Traffic and crowd control was provided by the Marlin Police Department, Marlin Public Works, Texas DPS, TxDOT, and the Falls County Sheriff’s Office.
Union Pacific Railroad temporarily discontinued train traffic due to smoke conditions, and increased vehicle and pedestrian activity in the downtown area. The owner/operator of a Marlin-based land development company volunteered his time, heavy equipment, and services to push in the fire building’s heavily damaged and unstable walls. This act reduced the potential for structural collapse, and also enhanced responder and public safety.
Once the fire was declared under control, and firefighters progressed into the fire’s mop-up stage, out-of-town emergency resources were released from the scene. Oncor Energy Delivery and ATMOS Energy responded to the scene to secure electrical and natural gas services. Oncor crews remained at the scene through the early hours of the morning to restore power to homes and businesses affected by the fire and resulting damages to nearby electrical infrastructure.
The last City of Marlin Fire Department unit cleared from the scene just after 2:00 a.m. Saturday. Over the weekend, City of Marlin Fire Department resources have returned to the scene on several occasions to identify and extinguish hotspots located deep within the debris.
No injuries or deaths have been reported. The cause of this fire is under investigation.