Fire severely damages DFAS Japan offices
January 22, 2009
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A massive fire broke out Tuesday evening in one of two Defense Finance and Accounting Service Japan buildings on base.
U.S. and Japanese firefighters worked well into the night to contain the blaze, which started at about 6:30 p.m. and spread rapidly. There were no reports of injuries.
Three hours after the fire started, a section of the roof collapsed. At 1 a.m. Wednesday, flames were still shooting out from the middle of the building as firefighters sprayed water on other parts of the roof from ladders above.
"Over time, it spread and eventually engulfed the entire building," said Col. Jeff Newell, the 374th Airlift Wing commander. "Obviously, there’s going to be significant damage."
He said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire, which also threatened an adjacent building that houses the Yokota bureau of Stars and Stripes.
About 200 people work for DFAS Japan at Yokota, with roughly 120 occupying the damaged facility.
Newell said firefighters went through the building and were "very confident no one was inside at the time of the blaze." DFAS officials were doing an accountability check, he added.
Huge billows of smoke poured out of the structure and extended the length of Yokota’s flight line, which sits a block away. Images were broadcast on local Japanese television stations.
About two dozen fire trucks, ambulances and security forces vehicles crammed onto Airlift Avenue, which was blocked off in both directions.
Onlookers stood outside in the cold while airmen in nearby Tolley Hall came out to the dorm’s four-story stairwell to take in the scene.
Firefighters from the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department were called in at approximately 8 p.m. to assist Yokota firefighters. Eight fire vehicles and 38 firefighters were dispatched from off base.
"They teamed with our firefighters," Newell said. "We have reciprocal agreements to respond to emergencies in an integrated fashion. I can’t thank the local Tokyo Fire Department enough for their assistance."
The structure, built in 1948, had been scheduled for demolition in the next few years, according to Newell.
DFAS Japan prepares payments for all U.S. forces in the Western Pacific. It provides finance and accounting services to more than 200 Department of Defense agencies in the region.
Stars and Stripes reporter Bryce S. Dubee contributed to this story.