Warren Firefighters Battle ‘Fierce’ Downtown Fire

Warren Tire Center caught fire around 12:45 a.m. Thursday. Photo by Stacey Gross

WARREN, Pa. — A staple in the downtown Warren business community suffered a devastating fire early Thursday morning.

Firefighters arrived to the Warren Tire Center just six minutes after receiving the first call, but it was too late. According to City of Warren Fire Chief Sam Pascuzzi, passing motorists called the fire in to 9-1-1 around 12:49 a.m. and crews began to arrive on scene around 12:55 a.m. By the time they’d arrived, the building was already fully engulfed.

“The windows in the back were already out and the building was already venting through the roof” by that point. “It had a really good start,” Pascuzzi said.

Initial efforts were to protect the exposures — several surrounding residences to the north, east and south of the building. Surrounding homes were evacuated to be safe, and the fire was burning hot enough to melt the siding on at least one house, directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the structure.

“We were able to contain the external exposure,” Pascuzzi said, adding that there was no known injury to civilians as of 8 a.m. on Thursday.

One injury-related issue to a firefighter did occur, Pascuzzi confirmed. “It was heat exhaustion,” he said. “There’s just so much going on so fast.”

The firefighter was transported to Warren General Hospital, where he was hydrated and released before 8 a.m.

“It was a pretty fierce fire,” said Pascuzzi, adding that around 3,000 tires, “which burned fiercely” in a side building, as well as 2,200 gallons of waste oil in the main building, contributed to the ongoing intensity. The tank containing the waste oil ruptured due to the heat and kept the fire rolling, he said.

Spot fires in the area of the building containing the fire were presenting the main threat to continued burning as of Thursday morning, Pascuzzi said.

Crews were continuing to put those spot fires out in both the side building containing the tires and the back of the garage.

The track dozer working to put out those fires, according to Pascuzzi, was unable to get into that side building to dig through the tires still on fire as of Thursday morning; the roof of that structure was too unstable.

The tires, he said, “would just burn for days” unless crews remained on scene to continue putting out the flames as they cropped up.

Pennsylvania Avenue, between Averil and Bradley streets, were closed to traffic, Pascuzzi said as of Thursday morning.

With the amount of oil still covering the roadway, it could be a while before the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would clear the area for use, as Hazmat cleaning crews would be required to perform that task.

The devastation to the building, said Pascuzzi, mirrors the devastation to the community.

“It’s like a community icon,” he said. “It’s been here forever and now it’s not here anymore. It’s devastating.”

As of Thursday morning, neither City of Warren Police Detective Anthony Chimenti nor Pascuzzi could speculate as to the source of the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated by a state police fire marshal.

“He did a preliminary investigation and I think they’ll be back up tomorrow,” said Pascuzzi on Thursday.

The fire marshal was not available for comment as of press time.

Personnel will remain on the scene into Thursday evening, according to Pascuzzi, to keep any flare-ups from escalating and to monitor the safety of the scene.

Crews from Starbrick, Pleasant Township, North Warren, Clarendon, Glade, Scandia, Russell, Warren County Hazmat, and Emergycare have contributed at the scene.