By Denise Blaz and Brennan K. Peel
The Abilene Reporter-News
ABILENE, Texas — Whenever a major fire occurs, city workers have to do more than just make sure they extinguish it. The city's stormwater crew usually is on the scene, too, making sure hazardous runoff doesn't flow into city drains. Monday night, the Matera Paper Co. building was consumed by a three-alarm blaze in downtown Abilene. About 45 firefighters were at the scene to fight a blaze that took hours to snuff out. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Brent McClellan, Abilene's city stormwater administrator, said he and his staff were tasked with monitoring hazardous runoff by the water firefighters used.
Runoff enters stormwater outlets in streets curbs, eventuallyendingupinLake Fort Phantom Hill.
The estimated 700,000 gallons used on the structure and surrounding commercial properties in five hours cost the city a little more than $2,000, city officials said. "With the fire downtown this week, we weren't too concerned," McClellan said. "We knew it was a vacant building.Butwecamedown and checked it out anyway because it was so big, and they were using so much water on it."
McClellan said his department isn't worried about runoff from a house fire. Runoff from a commercial building, one where they don't know what's inside, is another matter, he said.
If a building containing potentially hazardous materials catches fire, McClellan and his crew uses sand or dirt to build a berm to contain the runoff.
"We want to make sure the water's safe," he said.
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