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Firefighters battle flames and cold during fire at Bed, Bath & Beyond

Within minutes of the fire call about a blaze in the bedding department of Bed, Bath & Beyond, in Batavia Towne Center, the store was filled with heavy black smoke that was roiling out of the front and back doors.

The visibility was low, making it difficult for the first firefighters on scene to get to the fire location.

"There was heavy smoke, but once the crew got in there they confirmed a working fire," said Town of Batavia Fire's 1st Assistant Chief Dan Coffey.

Much of the bedding department was destroyed by fire. The rest of the store's inventory and fixtures suffered heavy smoke and water damage.

The store's sprinkler system did activate, which Coffey said helped suppress the fire, but it took firefighters to actually knock down the flames. The rest of the next couple of hours on scene was spent clearing out smoke from Bed, Bath & Beyond and Petco.

"We got a quick knock down and then we were trying to clear smoke and improve the visibility of what we were doing," Coffey said.

There were employees -- Coffey didn't know how many -- who were evaluated for possible smoke inhalation.

Both stores remain closed.

"The fire investigation has already started and there's significant fire, smoke and water damage in there, so I imagine it's going to be some time (before Bed, Bath & Beyond reopens)," Coffey said.

Coffey described the bedding fire as pretty hot, with the material able to pack a heavy fire load.

"If you've been in there, you've seen, the bedding is stacked from floor to ceiling on those storage racks, so there's a tremendous amount of heat," Coffey said. "It's certainly a concern for us."

Adding to the fire-fighting difficulties was the icy weather. The air was biting and the fire hydrants frozen shut.

Three tankers from neighboring departments were requested to the scene, something that wouldn't have been necessary, Coffey said, if the hydrants hadn't frozen.

Assisting Town of Batavia at the scene were City of Batavia, Alexander, Elba, Oakfield, East Pembroke and Darien.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Investigators are conducting interviews, examining the physical evidence and it's possible store surveillance tapes may provide a clue to the cause.

"It's way to early," Coffey said soon after the smoke had cleared. "We're trying to talk to employees who were in the area at the time and try to determine the cause."

UPDATE 11:47 p.m.: Investigators have been on scene through the evening and into the night. There is no definitive cause, officials say. The Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation.

(Initial Report)

The front door soon after the fire was pronounced knocked down with the store still filled with heavy black smoke. Normally, you would be able to see into the store from this angle. Pictured, East Pemborke's Stephen Smelski.

Heavy smoke at the back of the building.

A frozen fire hydrant.

A Town of Batavia volunteer, Mike Jones, prepares Ladder 25 for extension of the platform.

Firefighter Scott Maloy shortly after exiting the building.

A firefighter tries to get one of the frozen hydrants going.

Firefighters at the back of the building.

Smoke being cleared from the storage room.

A firefighter on the roof of Bed, Bath & Beyond. Pictured, Jason Holman.

Firefighter Andrew Mullen waiting by the back door for other crew members who will head back in to make further checks on the fire scene, with most of the smoke cleared from the store.

East Pembroke's engine in front of the store as crews begin to roll up hose.

Scott Ogle
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Wondering about the well-being of the livestock at Petco. Any word?

Scott Ogle
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I have no idea how that comment multiplied eight times, and no clue as to how to delete. Sorry, Howard.

Mark Brudz
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I heard on the scanner at the time that the animals were evacuated as soon as smoke infiltrated by petco employees and not returned to petco until that store was thoroughly ventilated.

Mark Brudz
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Great Job to all the fire personnel on scene, Big Box Store Fires are particularly dangerous to fire fighters because of the heat generated by merchandise fires. Great job knocking it down and clearing it out under really tough circumstances

Scott Ogle
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Thanks, Mark. Good to hear.

Bea McManis
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Super photo journalism. Good job Howard.

Raymond Richardson
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This is why people shouldn't smoke in bed!

tim raines
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Most fire departments thaw hydrants by lighting kerozene. It looks like they didn't try that method.

Why not?

Bruce Ross
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Tim, I have been a volunteer firefighter for several years now and have extensive training in firefighting and I can tell you that trying to thaw a hydrant with kerosine is not a practice we use at all and can be very dangerous to anyone that would be attempting something like that.

Doug Yeomans
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Bruce, have you ever watched ice road truckers? When one of the trucks breaks down @ -50F, they build a tent over the front of the truck and use a salamander to blow heat through the engine compartment to warm it up enough that it will run. Are any methods like that used to thaw out hydrants?

Jeff Allen
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I Googled the method and it actually exists in manuals, of course it was 1905

Mark Brudz
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Large municipalities use a large steam generator mounted on a separate truck. They are special units that thaw hydrants and hoses during fires in sub zero weather. They cost a fortune, tanker relays like what they planned on using here if it became necessary are far more cost effective in our area and much safer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItcacB6rS2A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzZP7DBtJf4

The next one shows units shared by the Buffalo NY Fire Department and city water {Ironically manufactured in Leroy]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1caKxYUoho

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