The Freedom Valley Chronicles: The Millennium Fire – Part Three August 13, 2008 – 4:53 PM

At 4:53 PM, the first of eight alarms was sounded by the Borough of Conshohocken.

One minute earlier, a small fire had been reported at the construction site for Stables At Millennium, an apartment complex being built on Washington Street.  Five buildings were in various stages of construction at this new rental housing project.

The masonry bases for four of the buildings had been erected;  the fifth building was in the process of having its masonry work completed.

Wooden walls and framing were in the process of being built at two of the buildings.

To the east of Stables At Millennium was Riverwalk At Millennium, another residential rental complex.  A total of 375 rental homes had been built at Riverwalk At Millennium.  Hundreds of people lived here.

To the west of the construction site was Millennium III, an office building occupied by several businesses.

According to a statement issued by governmental leaders on August 18, 2008, “a call reporting a fire at an active construction site known as” Stables At Millennium was received by the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center at 4:52 PM on August 13, 2008.

The governmental leaders who issued this statement were Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, Conshohocken Borough Police Chief James Dougherty, Conshohocken Fire Marshall John McGrath, and Pennsylvania State Police Captain David Young.

Fire fighters, as noted in this statement, “encountered heavy fire in [a] five-story wood frame building under construction.”

This statement reported that “Investigators concluded that the origin of the fire was the molten metal (slag) and sparks generated by the workmen [at the construction site] using the oxyacetylene torch to cut the steel frames.  Pieces of hot slag can lodge in cracks or joints at a site and not be visible to an observer.  Investigators believe that hot slag and sparks generated by the torch were left at the scene but not obviously visible to the workers when they left. Over the hour following the workers’ departure, this material heated the wood to its ignition temperature and eventually ignited the wood frame of the building.”

According to a news article dated August 19, 2008, in The Philadelphia Daily News, Mr. Robert Mongeluzzi of The Law Firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky was quoted as saying “Using a 3,000-degree torch in a forest of wooden construction products is like playing with matches in a barn filled with hay.”  This law firm represented a number of tenants that filed suit against several businesses associated with this construction site.

An employee of CardioNet – unaffiliated with the construction site – witnessed the beginning stages of the fire.  While working in his office, located at Millennium III, he was able to take photos of the events unfolding at the construction site located on the adjacent parcel of land.  The photos were provided to The Law Firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky and released to the news media on August 13, 2009.

Note the speed of the fire in a span of two minutes.

First photo taken at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2008. This is one of the buildings under construction as part of Stables At Millennium. According to investigators, this is where the fire started.
A second photo taken at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2008.
A third photo taken at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2008.
A fourth photo taken at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2008.
A fifth photo taken at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2008.
A sixth photo taken at 4:57 PM on August 13, 2008.

Tonight, additional news columns will be published showing the spread of the inferno from the construction site of Stables At Millennium to Riverwalk At Millennium and Millennium III.

The top photograph is courtesy of Mr. Shea Roggio, August 13, 2008.

The six photographs of the initial stages of the fire are courtesy of The Law Firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, August 13, 2008.

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