On April l0, 2021 Fire Rescue Boat 2 was on a run investigating an abandoned vessel in the water at Boston and Aliceanna Streets in Fells Point. While there they observed a large column of black smoke on the opposite side of the harbor in the area of Locust Point and asked Fire Communications to send units out to investigate. At 1504 hours Fire Communications struck out Fire Box 26-50 for a fire reported in a conveyor belt system at the Domino Sugar Refinery Plant located at 1100 Key Highway, East.
When units arrived they encountered a 4-story conveyor belt system with heavy fire and smoke at the top of the unit with fire impinging on a sugar storage silo. All of the plant workers were safely evacuated before the arrival of the Fire Department. Fire crews started an interior attack on it but as the fire progressed it got into the 5-story high, 150’ X 350’ corrugated metal storage shed known as the “sugar shack”. This is where the raw sugar is stored as it comes off of the docked ships. The fire was now burning inside this building and spreading across the top of the piles of raw sugar that were stored in the building. Crews were still trying to gain entry. After arriving on the scene Battalion Chief 6, Ron Hudgens was in Command and requested a working fire assignment. At the same time the fire was overtaking the building, interior crews were ordered to evacuate the area as the center of the silo was starting to collapse inward. Command immediately asked for the second alarm. By this time the whole length of the building was ablaze and producing smoke that could be seen all across the city. A third alarm was struck out at 1532 hours after the collapse of the building and companies were in a defensive mode. The fire was contained under the metal of the collapsed building but still burning ferociously. Ladder pipes and portable monitor pipes were set up to cover the area.
As thousands of gallons of water was being poured onto the fire, the raw sugar inside was running out of the sides of the building and turning into a slurry of sticky syrup-like quicksand around the area and crews had to be careful of their footing. By evening the fire was still free-burning in areas under the collapsed metal.
Companies remained on the scene throughout the next few days. Heavy equipment was brought in and over the next few days pulled all of the burned metal pieces and steel reinforcements off of the piles of sugar to let the companies get at all of the hidden fires. They were also trying to salvage what sugar was left to store elsewhere and be processed later on. Several companies at a time rotated on four-hour fire watch shifts for the next several days. The last unit left the scene on the afternoon of the 24th, four days after the start of the fire.
The iconic 100 year old refinery suffered a devastating explosion in November of 2007 that resulted in another 3-alarm fire. The cause was a spark while cleaning a dust collection unit on the 6th floor of the powdered sugar mill and caused damage to the 3 floors above. That forced the shutdown of the plant for about a week. Several injuries resulted from that incident.