The dynamics and time compression of the first-due with varied concurrent tactical assignments demands a well trained and coordinated assignment.
The fire compartment, it’s rate of growth and degree of extension, the building’s structural system, resiliency, structural integrity and occupancy risk must be recognized in a timely manner and processed into task level actions.
Fire Dynamics and the First-Due
The predictability of performance of the Building, the Fire and the Company are integral to the First-Due.
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What at the Projected Operational Risks? Do they Matter? Photo:CJ Naum, 2013
Taking it to the Streets
Vacant, unoccupied, abandoned and derelict buildings continue to challenge emergency response companies at incidents. It’s the buildings of Heritage – masonry construction with Heavy Timber, Mill, Semi-Mill or Ordinary Construction systems of three to six to eight story heights that create the most significant risks to operations, mitigation, safety and integrity.
Do you know what the inherent characteristics and risks are for each system and occupancy condition?
Do you train on when and how to establish collapse management zones (CMZ), how to manage them and what indicators to monitor and track?
The identification, establishment and control of collapse management zones continues to be a leading Fireground performance deficient area requiring greater Fire
Service attention, training and rigor.
Understand the Difference between Occupancy Risk versus Occupancy Type?
Take a look at the building presented in the photo: discuss what the possible building construction features and systems are and why.
What type of Collapse Management Zones (CMZ) can be expected both interior and perimeter?
What would the expected fire flow requirements be with heavy fire involvement and extension?
What are other operational risks to operational companies and personnel?
How and when would Collapse Management Zones (CMZ) be established?
Who would manage them and how?
Is there a problem controlling Collapse Zones?
And the obvious question: How does the buildings’s assumed condition:Vacant, unoccupied, abandoned and derelict buildings affect your Incident Action Plan, Strategies and Tactics? Or is it not a factor…..How do you determine when and how to commit to interior operations?
For incident deployments to a report of a structure fire, the single most important attribute that defines all phases of subsequent operations and incident management; is that of understanding the building.
An officer or commander’s skill set, comprehension and intellect in their ability to read a building is paramount towards identifying risks, conducting fluid assessment, probability, predictability and recognizing intrinsic characteristics of the building and its expected performance under fire conditions, which are essential toward development of an integrated and adaptive fire management model and flexible incident action plan.
If you don’t know and understand the building, how can you identify and select appropriate strategies and tactics and have an integrate IAP suitable for the building and occupancy risks and predictability of performance?
It’s much more than just arriving on location, identifying a single family wood frame residential, a three story brick or a five story fireproof or single URM commercial and stretching in and going to work.
NIOSH: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters using Risk Management Principles at Structure Fires HERE
The ability for the first-arriving company, company officer or commander to perform an accurate identification of building type and classification are formulative toward anticipating variables in structural integrity and resiliency to the effects of extreme fire behavior, accelerated fire load package growth rates and intensity levels typically encountered in today’s composition and arrangement of buildings and their associated construction systems during initial and sustained fire suppression.
Arriving companies and personnel at a structure fire must be able to rapidly and accurately identify key elements of a building, process that data based on a widening field of variables present on today’s evolving Fireground and implement timely actions that address prioritized actions requiring intervention.
The identification, assessment, probability, predictability and intrinsic characteristics of the building and its expected performance under fire conditions must be identified, assessed and integrated into an adaptive fire management model and flexible incident action plan.
In other words, arriving companies and personnel at a structure fire need to be able to rapidly and accurately identify key elements of a building, process that data based upon a widening field of variables present on today’s evolving fireground and implement timely actions that address prioritized actions requiring intervention. Deterministic fireground models for size-up and suppression have to give way to a more expandable stochastic model of assessment. Key to this is having a broad and well developed foundation of building knowledge.
Taking it to the Streets: “All units stand-by: Transmitting the Box for….Your Street on this DayThe importance of knowing your first-due, surrounding response districts, as well as greater alarm, mutual and automatic aid response areas …is fundamental towards achieving operational excellence and maintaining firefighter safety.
The fact that at times, our surroundings do become a blur and fade into the background does occur and should be recognized as a gap and corrected.
Company and Command Officer Responsibilities demand that you know your buildings intimately and have the knowledge base and experience to put Building Construction, Occupancy, Fire in the Compartment and Strategies & Tactics together in an orchestrated manner consistent with risk, demands and requirements dictated by the evolving incident.You know that quiet street you pass daily on your way to “other runs”, or that may not have necessarily required agency service in a while; have you looked at the construction and building features before you’re now showing up first-due with heavy fire showing, and multiple incident priorities all demanding immediate attention?
Take a look at the images from our past post and this one; run through your head what the street looks like (pre-event) and what parameters and factors you’re seeing. Do the same with the fire incident scene and see if you can match pre-incident situational awareness and pre-fire planning insights with what you might be confronting from the front seat or riding backwards….Understand and Know your world….it’s just a matter of time before those bells will be going off and the radio will be crackling….Engine 21 respond to…. For a report of a structure fire.
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Taking it to the Streets: Your Street on any given Day
At times, our surroundings become a blur and fade into the fabric that defines our response district, our first-due, our neighborhood, community, city or town. We tend to focus on thos…e areas that have an immediacy or frequency that defines day-to –day operations, shifts or alarm dispatches and transmission of “those” box alarms. You know; the ones that have a particular address that always grab our attention.
Company and Command Officers MUST be intensely aware of your area’s fabric, its state and condition, the subtle changes as well as those that a times result in what seems like major changes, renovations or construction that pops up literally overnight or in a matter of weeks. Individually, you should be running scenario through your head as to the “what ifs” for a particular building, structure or occupancy. Share these insights and option plays with your company, station, battalion or group…Invest in the opportunity to game plan and know your world; before the alarms go off and the bell hits and you’re in the street….
Understand how your buildings co-exist with each other, what defines their characteristics, features, profile, hazards and challenges…
This is Part One of a Two Part Post….”All units standby: transmitting the box for….”
Checkout other interactions on Buildingsonfire on Facebook HERE and don’t forget to to LIKE and pass the link along
On March 18, 1996, two firefighters were killed in Chesapeake, Virginia when they became trapped by a rapidly spreading fire in an auto parts store and a pre-engineered wood truss roof assembly collapsed on them. The cause of the fire was an electrical short created when a power company truck working in the rear of the building drove away with its boom in an elevated position, accidentally pulling an electrical feed line from the main breaker panel at the rear of the store.
Post-incident investigations indicate that the electrical fault may have sparked multiple points of fire origin throughout the roof structure of the building, due to improperly grounded wiring. At the time of the report issuance, this was exemplified as another incident illustrating the rapid failure of lightweight construction systems when key support components are involved in a fire. The report pointed out the importance of prefire planning and accurate size up by fire companies to determine the risk factors associated with a fire in this type of construction.
Lessons regarding importance of initial company actions, constant re-evaluation of action plans, strong command and coordination of units on the fireground, and recognition of signs of impending structural failure were also reinforced.
Reading through any number of NIOSH, USFA or NFPA reports, similar issues, challenges and operational factors resonate and continue to shape and challenge today’s fire ground operations.
It is without exception that the knowledge and insights being gained by the continuing efforts from the UL and NIST Research Studies coupled with the recommendations, from the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (HERE)will provide increased awareness and understanding of buildings, fire dynamics and the effectives of fire within the compartment, building and the manner in which fire departments engage in fire suppression operations.
Today’s fire ground is changing at a very rapid pace as it relates to the continued evolution, transition of engineered structural components and systems (ESS).
Are you prepared, knowledgeable and understand that new strategic and tactical approaches are required?
One of the most significant actions initiated by the Chesapeake Fire Department was the implementation of a Truss Identification Program (TIP).
Take a look at a past posting on CommandSafety.com where we published on an overview a few years ago of truss and engineering component systems across the United States HERE.
The following are excerpts and narrative from the USFA Technical Report Series TR-087 and NIOSH Report 96-17
Aerail Overview on Complex today
SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES
Staffing : The first alarm response provided a small attack force with limited capabilities. The full response brought only 10 personnel.
Size-up : The first arriving company officer was not able to determine the location and extent of the hidden fire.
Pre-fire plan information: This complex required a pre-fire plan due to the complex arrangement, multiple occupancies, mixed construction, lack of fixed protection, limited access and difficult water supply problems. The first-due company did carry a pre-fire plan that showed the layout of the shopping center and the floor plan for the auto parts store, but the prefire plan was not referenced by the crew during the fire.
Delayed response: The first arriving company was on the scene alone for several minutes with only 3 personnel. The back-up companies had long response times. The lack of evidence of a working fire prompted the initial incident commander to return some of the responding units, resulting in even longer response times.
Water supply: The first-in company did not establish a water supply. This required the second engine company to be committed to this task.
Incident command: The battalion chief was faced with a complicated and rapidly changing situation. He was not able to effectively transfer command from the initial officer and direct the operations of widely separated units.
Operational risk management:The officers involved in the initial part of the operation had to make critical risk management decisions with limited information.
Accountability: Accountability for the personnel operating in the hazardous area was not established prior to the structural collapse. As the situation became critical, no one realized that a crew was still inside the building.
Rapid intervention crew: Additional crews did not arrive in time to assist the crew that was in trouble inside the building.
Radio communications: The lack of a clear radio channel for fire ground communications caused serious problems with command and control of the incident, including the failure to maintain communications with the crew inside and the failure to hear their request for assistance.
Lightweight construction: The roof collapsed quickly and with very little warning. This should be anticipated with a lightweight wood truss roof assembly. This hazard was not recognized by the crews on the scene.
BUILDING DESCRIPTION – Construction and History
The fire occurred in a modern, lightweight construction building that was added to an existing strip mall in 1984. The older mall on exposure side four was separated from the fire building by a masonry fire wall and was constructed with masonry walls and a steel bar-joist roof structure. The exposures on side two consisted of additional stores that were similar in construction to the auto parts store. There were no exposures on sides one and three.
The auto parts store was constructed with two masonry exterior walls and two wood frame exterior walls, with a lightweight wood truss roof assembly. It was approximately 120 feet deep and 50 feet wide, providing about 6,000 square feet of open display and storage space. The roof assembly was a pre-engineered lightweight wood truss assembled from 2 x 6 top and bottom chords, with 2 x 4 web members held together with metal gusset plates.
There were no interior bearing walls or supports for the roof structure. At one end, the trusses were supported by a wood plate that was bolted to a metal beam.
The other end rested on top of the concrete block wall. Each truss was separated by 24 inches and they were covered with 1/2 inch CDX plywood sheathing under a two-ply rubber membrane.
A drywall ceiling was attached to the underside of the trusses, creating a truss void space (truss loft) 24 to 36 inches above the ceiling.
A sheet rock divider was located in the middle of the truss void as a draft stop. The roof had a slight pitch.
Three air handling units were on the roof of the building, with an estimated combined weight of 3,000 pounds. It is not known when these units were installed and they may have represented an unanticipated dead load on the roof assembly.
There was no indication that the trusses had been reinforced to support the extra weight of these units.
The original truss roof structure collapsed during the construction of the building, injuring three workers.
Most of the trusses were damaged and had to be replaced at the time. The fire building was occupied by Advance Auto Parts, a chain distributor of automobile part and lubricants. The store was designed with an open retail area containing display racks for goods.
A long counter ran from front to back behind which was shelving for additional auto parts. Waste oil and batteries were kept in a rear storage area separated from the front of the store by a drywall wall.
The southwest corner of the building contained employee restrooms which had a small water heater located in the ceiling space just above them. The main entrance to the store was through two large glass doors at the front of the building. A delivery and service entrance was located in the rear and a 40 foot trailer was parked behind the building and used for additional storage.
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on March 18, 1996, a power company employee set up a service truck at the rear of the Indian River Shopping Center in Chesapeake, Virginia. The worker was going to disconnect the electrical power to a customer who had not paid an electrical bill. The customer, a cocktail lounge and bar, was located adjacent to Advance Auto Parts. In preparing to disconnect service, the power company worker elevated the articulating boom on his truck to roof level. Faced with the immediate loss of power, an employee of the lounge paid the electrical bill while the power company employee was beginning work, and went to the back of the store to show the receipt.
A stamped receipt indicates the bill was paid at 11:16 a.m. at a supermarket also located in the shopping center. The power company employee, working from the bucket of the articulating boom, lowered the boom and verified the receipt. Although the bucket had been lowered, the hinged elbow of the articulating boom remained elevated. The employee then radioed his supervisor from the cab of his truck, and received instructions not to disconnect power.
The power company employee then attempted to drive the service truck away, forgetting to secure the boom, which snagged on a power line feeding the meter at the rear of the Advance Auto Parts Store. This caused a phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground arcing fault at the store’s electrical meter, starting the fire. The power company employee immediately stopped, exited his truck, and cut the remaining power connections to the meter at the rear of Advance Auto Parts.
Initial Actions Prior to Calling 911
After cutting the power line to the building, the power company employee removed the meter, noticed smoke coming from the meter base, notified his office and requested that another power company crew and a supervisor come and assist him.
An employee of the Advance Auto Parts Store came to the rear of the building and met the power company employee, telling him that the store had lost electrical power and that a fire was being extinguished inside the building.
Another Advance Auto Parts employee discharged a dry chemical fire extinguisher on the spot fire that had started near the hot water heater above the employee restrooms.
All believed the fire had been extinguished at this time.
At 11:29 a.m., the Chesapeake Fire and Police Emergency Operations Center received a 911 call from Advance Auto Parts reporting a problem with the fuse box in the store.
The Chesapeake Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a fuse box sparking at 4345 Indian River Road at the Advance Auto Parts store.
Initial response consisted of two engines, a ladder company, and a battalion chief, for a total of 10 personnel.
Engine 3 was the first due arriving company, responding from quarters. Engine 1 and Ladder 2 also responded.
Battalion 1 was dispatched as the command officer, but requested that Battalion 2 cover the assignment, since he was out of position.
Battalion 2 acknowledged the request, and he responded with the first alarm companies.
Engine 3’s crew consisted of three personnel: a driver/pump operator; Firefighter- Specialist John Hudgins, serving as Acting Lieutenant for the shift; and Firefighter- Specialist Frank Young, detailed to the station for the day, was riding in the jump seat. Engine 3 was responding in a reserve engine that had a 500 gallon water tank.
Initial Size-Up and Company Actions
At approximately 11:35 a.m., about five and a half minutes after dispatch, Engine 3 arrived on the scene at the front of the strip mall.
Hudgins reported “a single-story commercial structure, nothing showing from the front. Engine 3 is in command.”
Engine 3 took a position in front of the Advance Auto Parts Store. Hudgins and Young entered the structure from the front of the building to investigate.
Conditions were clear in the store, and there was no visible smoke or flames showing. They discovered light smoke near the electrical panel in the rear of the building, and radioed to Battalion 2 that they had a fire and were checking for extension.
Acting Lieutenant Hudgins then radioed for Engine 3’s driver to reposition the apparatus to the rear of the building.
Hudgins then radioed to Battalion 2, who had not yet arrived on the scene, that Engine 3 and Ladder 2 could handle the incident. Battalion 2 and Engine 1, the second due engine company, both went in service.
Engine 3 Reports They Are Trapped, Roof Collapses
At approximately 11:49 a.m., almost 20 minutes after the initial dispatch time, Hudgins radioed that he and Young could not get out of the building. Battalion 2 radioed back that he could not understand their transmission. Hudgins then radioed that they needed someone to come to the front of the building and get them out. Again unable to understand their transmission, Battalion 2 radioed for any unit on the fireground to advise him if they heard the message that was transmitted.
Engine 4 responded that they were unable to copy the transmission.
Engine 14 then marked on the scene and was instructed by Battalion 2 to lay a supply line to the front of the building. Battalion 1, enroute to the fire on the second alarm, radioed to Battalion 2 that it sounded like someone was trapped inside.
Battalion 3, also enroute, radioed that he would be on the scene momentarily and would assist.
At this time, Ladder 2’s crew was setting the outriggers and preparing to elevate their aerial ladder for defensive operations.
In the short time it took to accomplish the stabilization of the ladder truck, the front of the store became fully involved, the building contents ignited, and the roof collapsed.
Due to the radiant heat, Ladder 2 was forced to retract their outriggers and reposition to a safer defensive position on side one of the structure, and set up the aerial again.
Ladder 2’s crew did not hear Engine 3’s transmission that they were trapped.
Simultaneously, Engine 1 ran out of supply line about 200 feet short of the hydrant. Engine 2, responding on the second alarm, picked up the hydrant that Engine 1 was attempting to reach and laid a supply line to side one.
The driver of Engine 1 attempted to contact his officer by radio to advise that he could not reach the hydrant, but could not get through due to heavy radio traffic.
He parked the engine in the roadway, donned his SCBA, and went to the rear of the building to report to his Captain and rejoin his crew.
Battalion 3 arrived on side one about this time and radioed for all companies to switch to channel two, an alternate fireground tactical frequency.
Driven by the northerly wind and the draft created by the burning contents of the structure, the fire at the rear had grown in such intensity that personnel were forced to move Engine 3. Assisted by employees of the power company, Engine 3 was moved back away from the rear of the building. At 11:55 a.m., about 26 minutes after dispatch, the Captain of Engine 1, with his crew at the rear of the building, confirmed to Battalion 2 that “I got men on the inside from Engine 3, and the lines have been burned. I do not know their status, and we still have no water to go in after them.”
Battalion 3 met with Battalion 2 and discussed that they may have lost a crew inside. Battalion 3 assumed command and Battalion 2 went to the rear of the building to coordinate rescue efforts. There, Battalion 2 met with the Captain from Engine 1.
By this time, the building was fully involved and no rescue efforts could be mounted until the fire was knocked down. Officers at the front and the rear attempted to conduct a personnel accountability report (PAR) to determine who was missing and where they might be located.
An engine company responding on mutual aid from the Virginia Beach Fire Department was flagged down, connected to Engine 1’s supply line, and completed the water supply to a hydrant behind the shopping center within the City of Virginia Beach. Engine 3 was forced to move back once again, and the supply line was disconnected from Engine 3 and used to supply water to Engine 4, a telesquirt that was positioned for defensive operations at the rear.
Extinguishment and Body Recovery
The fire spread to the attic of the exposures on side two and was held in check by the fire wall on side four of the building. The fire was brought under control as the contents of the auto parts store burned off and several aerial streams were put into operation. After the fire was extinguished, a search for the missing firefighters was initiated. After the bodies of the firefighters were located, they were removed from the fire building by members of the Virginia Beach Fire Department, and transferred by members of the Chesapeake Fire Department to medic units.
The body recovery was supervised by the Chesapeake Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office and documented. An investigation was immediately started by the Chesapeake Fire Department Fire Marshal.
Fire Cause and Flame Spread
The fire was caused by the electrical short created when the power company truck struck the power line to the building. Investigation by the City of Chesapeake Electrical Inspector after the fire revealed that the meter contained wiring that appeared to have been tampered with and did not comply with the electrical code.
Several connections at the meter had been double-lugged, connecting multiple wires to single terminals. Additional investigation by Virginia Power revealed that the building may have been improperly grounded, leading to numerous hot connections when the short circuit occurred. The main fuse did not trip at the breaker panel and the wiring on all three air handling units had been fused. This probably resulted in the ignition of multiple spot fires in the truss loft above the store.
It appears that the fires in the truss loft were still relatively minor when Engine 3 arrived, but the fire spread rapidly throughout the space due to the light wood construction.
The wind drawn from the open doors at the front of the building also promoted rapid fire growth. This would have created a tremendous hidden fire in the wood truss loft area despite clear conditions inside the structure.
Reports of heavy smoke and fire conditions on the roof at the same time Engine 3’s crew was calling for pike poles and personnel to come inside are indications towards this scenario.
The interior of the auto parts store contained racks of auto parts and supplies, including oil, lubricants, rubber, and plastic parts. The contents were packed closely together and stored in tall racks near the ceiling.
Once the fire had broken through the ceiling in the rear of the building, these contents would have quickly reached their ignition temperatures, creating flashover conditions in the rear of the store as the fire progressed, trapping the firefighters and forcing them to seek an exit at the front of the store.
The collapse of the pre-engineered truss roof occurred approximately 21 minutes after the time of dispatch, and within 35 minutes of the initial accident, that caused the electrical short.
The structure appears to have collapsed within 10 to 12 minutes after the truss space became heavily involved.
The collapse of similar truss assemblies under fire conditions within this time period has been well documented.
Post-incident investigations indicate that this truss assembly may have been weakened by deficiencies in the connection of the trusses to the beam on the east side of the building.
Also, the dead load of the three air conditioning units may have contributed to the rapid failure of the roof.
Reports from firefighters on the scene indicate that a partial failure of the truss assembly may have occurred in the rear of the building, followed shortly by the failure of the entire roof assembly.
It is possible that the crew of Engine 3 was trapped by the partial collapse of the roof in the rear, or by the collapse of racks containing auto parts in the building, or by the rapid spread of the fire and smoke which had broken through the ceiling.
It is also possible that a combination of these events occurred simultaneously. The failure of the entire roof assembly and complete involvement of the interior of the building with fire took place within one minute after the firefighters radioed for help, before any reaction to assist them could take place.
Initial Response - The first alarm assignment was overwhelmed by the situation, the circumstances, and the unusual sequence of events that occurred at this incident. It is evident that a larger force would have been needed to initiate an effective offensive or defensive operation for a working fire in a 6,000 square foot commercial occupancy, with attached exposures on two sides, with or without the unusual complications.
The response of two engine companies, one ladder company and a battalion chief, provided a total of 25 only 10 personnel on the initial assignment.
The individual companies, which responded with three person crews, had limited capabilities to perform tasks independently.
This incident generated only a single call to 9-1-1 reporting an electrical problem.
LESSONS LEARNED AND REINFORCED
1. RISK ASSESSMENTis the primary responsibility of the incident commander.
This incident presented a very high risk to the firefighters who were attempting to make an interior attack. However, the risk factors were not recognized and the interior crew was not directed to abandon the building. Risk assessment should be a continual process, particularly when a situation is changing very quickly.
2. ACCOUNTABILITY is an essential function of the Incident Command System.
The location and operation of the initial attack crew was not tracked according to the incident command system that was in effect at the time of the fire. The system must keep track of the location, function, status, and assignment of every individual unit or company operating at the scene of an emergency incident. In order to be effective, the accountability process must be routinely initiated at the beginning of every incident and updated as the incident progresses and units are reassigned to different tasks.
3. TACTICAL RADIO CHANNELS are essential for firefighter safety.
The fireground operations were conducted on the same radio channel as the routine dispatch and transfer of additional units, hampering the fireground communications during the important early stages of the incident. Designated radio channels should be set aside specifically for communications between the incident commander and the units operating at the scene of an incident. The exchange of information, orders, instructions, warnings, and progress reports is essential to support safe and effective operations. Tactical channels should be assigned early and routinely to avoid the confusion that occurs when units that are already working are directed to switch to a different radio channel.
4. FIRE OPERATIONS must be limited to those functions that can be performed safely with the number of personnel that are available at the scene of an incident.
The initial response to this incident did not provide enough resources to safely initiate an effective interior attack for the situation that was encountered. The first arriving company initiated interior operations that could not be adequately performed or supported with the limited number of personnel at the scene or responding. The delayed arrival of back-up companies increased the risk exposure of the first due company. The situation called for a more conservative initial attack plan and/or an early retreat when the magnitude of the fire became evident.
5. WATER SUPPLY is a critical component of a safe and successful operation.
The failed attempt to establish an adequate and reliable water supply for the interior attack was a critical problem at this incident. This task occupied the second due engine company which was needed to provide either a back-up hose line to support the interior attack or a rapid intervention crew.
6. LIGHTWEIGHT WOOD TRUSS CONSTRUCTION is prone to rapid failure under fire conditions.
If the construction of the building had been known or recognized, the early failure of the roof structure should have been anticipated and the interior crew should have been withdrawn. This requires pre-fire planning to identify high risk properties and a reliable system to label the building or to inform the responding units of the risk factors of the building. It is usually difficult or impossible to make this determination when the building is burning.
Adaptive Fireground Management for the Company and Command Officer
This program presents insights into emerging concepts and methodologies related to the unique challenges during combat structural fire engagement that require refined strategic, tactical and operational modeling due to extreme fire behavior, building construction and occupancy risk. The principles of Adaptive Fire Ground Management (AFM) will be presented along with integrated discussions on:
Predictive Risk Management, Command Resiliency, Tactical Patience & integration of Five-Star CommandTM model will be presented with discussion on key Building Construction Systems and Occupancy Risk factors for company effectiveness, operational excellence and firefighter safety
The program will integrate key case studies, lessons from the fireground, insights into emerging fire ground tactical theory with a focus of understanding occupancy risk with today’s Buildings on fire.
This is an interactive and thought provoking program that challenges conventional fire service paradigms and explores leading edge theories and fire servicediscussion points from across the American Fire Service profession.
This program is for ALL levels of rank and experience, not just officers.
Friday March 8th, 2013 • 0900-1600 hrs. $50.00 per Student
Registration Opens at 8am Columbus FF Union Hall
Station 67, 379 Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215
CEU: 6 hrs. Provided by Columbus State Community College | Meet & Greet Immediately Following
A rapid and fast moving early morning fire in downtown Trenton, Ontario Canada resulted in the subsequent collapse of a three story mixed use commerical and apartment occupancy structure. Published media reports indicated the building was over 130 years of age and was in operation as an adult entertainment establishment on the lower level with multiple occupancy use apartments on the upper floors. The fire displaced 12 residents. The commercial portion of the building on the number one floor was not operating at the time of the alarm.
For a complete overview of the general fire, refer to the links below for the media links.
Two firefighters were nearly trapped while engaged in primary search and rescue operations as the fire conditions deteriorated and compromise and collapse conditions began to collapse the wood frame structure.
Pre-incident images clearly depict the typical building profile of a heritage type structure of the late 1880′s vintage with it’s sloping roof profile and window treatments that are evident on both the bravo and delta divisions (many with window mounted air conditioning units that constitute a collapse risk to operating companies on the ground perimeter) . As with many buildings in urban areas, the exterior envelope has been renovated in a manner that added an exterior metal clad panel system that is typically mechanically fastened directly to the facade or to a sub-assembly fastening system. This in effect covers the buildings originating facade, building materials and structural and cosmetic conditions.
Common to original building construction and layouts, the alpha division shows the manner in which the first floor wall has been modified with no indication of window locations and conditions in the upper floors. Common to this renovation technique is the placement of the metal facade directly over existing window openings and framing systems, resulting in either boarded and elimination of the window or the fames and glass still present within the interior room compartments compounding search and rescue assignments.
Sherwood Forest Inn, Image from Google Street View
The metal exterior cladding masks the ability for arriving companies to identify if the structure is wood frame Type V, ordinary Type III or Brace Frame construction. The profile and charactoristics of this building profile suggests a buidling of Type III Ordinary construction ( Brick and jost) with load bearing masony construction. This is not the case in this structure as fireground photos further depicted. The various fireground photos suggest that this was a wood frame structure with wood exterior sheathing with some brick masonry features applied to the alpha division. The building envelope is encased in a sheet metal panel cladding system attached the perimeter facade.
Delta Division, Google Street View Image
Image above shows the degree of interior fire involvement and smoke density. The sheet metal cladding that was applied to the surface facade masks the ability to monitor wall degradation and compromise, retains heat within the building envelope and has independent collapse considerations based upon the manner it is atached to the outer facade further compounding the structural integrity of the buildings wall envelope. Photo by Step Crosier.
In incidents taht have building profiles such as this, conservative risk management, establishment of primary and secondary collapse perimeters along the various divisions is imperative for firefighter safety and apparatus operabilty.
Collapse and failure of the primary structural support systems affecting both interior and exterior structural and infill systems. Photo by Marc Venema
The image above shows the extent of collapse. Look at the various construction features consisting of the original wood plank sheathing, brick facade work, wood framing system and the retrofitted metal paneling facade.
How would you Read the Building based upon the pre incident photos shown at the being of this post?
Would you assume the building was a type III or IV structure or a wood frame or brace frame structure?
Does each building system have a different bearing on fireground operations, strategies, tactics and operational integrity and company and personnal safety?
How much operatoinal time do you have for a primary search and rescue assignment or for deployment and effective location of a fire seat and application of hose streams before you developing compromising conditions with the interior compartments?
Look at the brick veneer added to the wood sheathing covered by the metal panels in this image. Photo by Steph Crosier
Chicago firefighter Herbert Johnson, left, poses with Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, right, after Johnson was promoted to the rank of captain. Johnson died from injuries sustained while fighting a house fire on the South Side. — Chicago Fire Department
”You don’t need a last name for Herbie. Everybody knew Herbie”. A beloved firefighter, Fire officer, father and husband died in the line of duty on Friday November 2, in the City of Chicago protecting the citizens of his city working with the companies assigned to the structure fire alarm.
Chicago Captain Herbert Johnson, 54, suffered second- and third-degree burns during fire suppression operations being conducted in the attic of the residential house at 2315 West 50th Place, according to Chicago FD officials and published media reports. The 32-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department died Friday night after he and another firefighter were injured in a blaze that spread quickly through the 2-1/2 story wood frame house. A second firefighter, FF Brian Woods was also injured and was reported in good condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, according to a department spokeswoman, and was subsequently released. Chicago fire investigators are considering the possibility that a malfunctioning water heater sparked the fire that killed Capt. Herbert Johnson, a Fire Department spokesman said Saturday.
See CommandSafety.com for a complete accounting of the event, HERE
Family of fallen firefighter: ‘A hero for our city’ from the Chicago Tribune, HERE
Captain Johnson, was promoted from lieutenant this summer and was assigned to Engine Co. 123 in Back of the Yards Section of Chicago for the night tour but normally worked all around the City of Chicago.
Capt. Johnson from a 2006 Sun-Times photo
The following exerpt from the Chicago Tribune helps define the type of firefighter Capt. Johnson was:
Johnson’s influence on everyone he met was visible Saturday, with shrines at the site of his death and trees in his family’s Morgan Park neighborhood decorated with purple and black bows.
A 32-year veteran of the department, Johnson volunteered in 2001 to help with rescue efforts in New York after the 9/11 attacks. As a lieutenant in 2007, he received a Medal of Honor for outstanding bravery or heroism, the state’s highest accolade for firefighters — the result, his family said, of helping rescue children the year before from a burning building on the South Side.
Friends and family remembered him mostly for his jovial personality and tender heart, a burly man with a beaming smile who once took a sewing class so he could make a First Communion dress for his daughter.
Johnson and his sister, Julie, even went to clown school together, said their brother John Johnson, a Chicago police officer. That sister, a former police officer who is now a nurse, celebrated her birthday Friday, the day of Johnson’s death, family members said.
Their father worked for the city in the Streets and Sanitation Department, John Johnson said, and their grandfathers were Chicago police officers.
The eldest of eight children, Johnson always knew he wanted to be a firefighter, said his family members, many of whom are also in public service.
Just like every little boy that’s grown up in the last 20 years wanted to be Michael Jordan or Brian Urlacher, every firefighter that worked with him wanted to be Herbie,” said Tim O’Brien, a spokesman with Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2. “You aspired to be more like him in every way of life.”
Colleagues said Johnson spent the last several years working as an instructor at the Fire Academy. Generous and kind, he never missed a Fire Department fundraising event, they said. His helpful nature also extended beyond the firehouse, friends said, through coaching youth sports and volunteering at his church parish.
He always had a funny story and often left fellow firefighters in stitches, sometimes through his own distinctive belly laugh, colleagues said.
“He was always a hero to us and now he’s a hero for our city,” McMahon said. “Herbie never wanted glory or notoriety. Instead, all he wanted was to make Chicago a safer place for other members of the city. So please, in Herbie’s honor, check your smoke detectors right now, give your kids a hug.”
Johnson was an easy man to know and love, said friend Tom Taff, who runs a camp for burn victims that Johnson helped support. The recently promoted captain personified joie de vivre, a man with a big laugh who drove fire engines in parades, cooked for charity — left an impression in the many places he offered his service.
On September 11, 2001, Captain Patrick Brown and eleven men from FDNY Ladder 3 responded to the attacks at the World Trade Center. His firehouse, Ladder 3, is located in very close proximity to the Twin Towers so his was one of the first fire companies on the scene. Along with so many other rescue workers, the men of Ladder 3 participated in perhaps the most successful rescue effort in U.S. history. These rescue workers, at their own peril, managed to safely evacuate over 25,000 people from those burning towers. It is believed that Paddy and his men were on the 40th floor of the North Tower with 30 or 40 severely burned people when that tower fell.
He was an extraordinary officer and firefighter; Captain Patrick Brown was passionate, intense, complicated, humble, and an inspiration to both those who knew him and those who are just now finding out about this incredible man. He’ll be remembered as a devoted friend, a dedicated firefighter, a warrior, and someone who made a difference.
One of the many stories of extraordinary Company Officers, Firefighters, Commanders and Chief Officers… of the FDNY 343….
Ladder 3 Last Dispatch 1 Hour Before The North Tower CollapseHERE
Operations at 30 Dowling Circle 01.19.2011 Box 11-09
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011, a fire occurred in an apartment building located in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County, Maryland. This fire resulted in the line of duty death (LODD) of volunteer firefighter Mark G. Falkenhan, who was operating as the acting lieutenant on Squad 303 . Upon their arrival, FF Falkenhan and a second firefighter from Squad 303 deployed to the upper floors of the apartment building to conduct search and rescue operations. Other fire department units were already involved with both firefighting operations and effecting rescues of trapped civilians.
During these operations, FF Falkenhan and his partner became trapped in a third floor apartment by rapidly spreading fire and smoke conditions. The second firefighter was able to self-egress the building by diving headfirst down a ladder on the front (address side) of the building. FF Falkenhan declared a “MAYDAY” and implemented “MAYDAY” procedures, but was unable to escape or be rescued.
FF Falkenhan was located and removed via a balcony on the third floor in the rear of the building. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued en route to the hospital. FF Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Mark Gray Falkenhan had dedicated his life to serving others. He perished in the line of duty on January 19, 2011 while performing search and rescue operations at a multi-alarm apartment fire in Hillendale, Baltimore County (Maryland). He was 43 years old.
Firefighter Mark Falkenhan
30 Dowling Circle
The Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department published the Line of Duty Death Investgation Report of the 30 Dowling Circle Fire recently.
The report was written by a Line of Duty Death Investigation Team comprised of departmental members, including representatives of the local firefighters’ union and the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
An overview and executive narrative of the final report (PDF) on the apartment fire where Volunteer Firefighter Mark Falkenhan sustained fatal injuries was posed on CommandSafety.com HERE.
Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department web site HERE
FF Mark Falkenhan
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011, a fire occurred in an apartment building located in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County, Maryland. This fire resulted in the line of duty death (LODD) of volunteer firefighter Mark G. Falkenhan, who was operating as the acting lieutenant on Squad 303 (for purposes of this report, Mark will be referred to as FF Falkenhan).
Upon their arrival, FF Falkenhan and a second firefighter (FF # 2) from Squad 303 deployed to the upper floors of the apartment building to conduct search and rescue operations. Other fire department units were already involved with both firefighting operations and effecting rescues of trapped civilians.
During these operations, FF Falkenhan and FF # 2 became trapped in a third floor apartment by rapidly spreading fire and smoke conditions. FF # 2 was able to self-egress the building by diving headfirst down a ladder on the front (address side) of the building. FF Falkenhan declared a “MAYDAY” and implemented “MAYDAY” procedures, but was unable to escape or be rescued.
FF Falkenhan was located and removed via a balcony on the third floor in the rear of the building. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued en route to the hospital. FF Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
The investigating team examined any and all data available, including independent analysis of the self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), turnout gear and autopsy report. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) produced a fire model to assist with evaluating fire behavior. Multiple site inspections were conducted. Extensive interviews were conducted by the team which also attended those conducted by investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Photographic and audio transcripts were also thoroughly analyzed. A comprehensive timeline of events was developed. All information used to make decisions regarding recommendations was corroborated by at least two sources.
In fairness to those units involved in this incident, the investigating team had the advantage of examining this incident over the period of several months. Furthermore, given the size and nature of the event, and the fact that arriving crews were met with serious fire conditions and several residents trapped and in immediate danger, all personnel should be commended for their efforts for performing several rescues which prevented an even greater tragedy.
The team did not identify a particular primary reason for FF Falkenhan’s death.
What were identified were many secondary issues involving but not limited to crew integrity, incident command, strategy and tactics, and communications.
These issues are identified and discussed, and recommendations are made in appropriate sections of the report, as well as in a consolidated format in the Report Appendix.
Some of the issues identified in this report may require some type of change to current practices, policies, procedures or equipment. Most, however, do not. Specifically, the analysis and recommendations regarding Incident Command and Strategy and Tactics show that if current policies and procedures are adhered to, the opportunity for catastrophic problems may be reduced.
Mark Falkenhan was a well-respected and experienced firefighter.
He died performing his duties during a very complex incident with severe fire conditions and unique fire behavior coupled with the immediate need to perform multiple rescues of victims in imminent danger.
It would be easy if one particular failure of the system could be identified as the cause of this tragedy.
We could fix it and move on. Unfortunately it is not that simple.
No incident is “routine”. Mark’s death and this report reinforce that fact.
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 1816 hours, a call was received at the Baltimore County 911 Center from a female occupant at 30 Dowling Circle in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County. The caller stated that her stove was on fire and the fire was spreading to the surrounding cabinets. Fire box 11-09 was dispatched by Baltimore County Fire Dispatch (Dispatch) at 1818 hours consisting of four engine companies, two truck companies, a floodlight unit, and a battalion chief. All units responded on Talkgroup 1-2.
The location, approximately one mile from the first dispatched engine company, is a three story garden-type apartment complex, with brick construction and a composite shingle, truss supported roof. The fire building contained a total of six apartments divided by a common enclosed stairway in the center with one apartment on the left and one to the right of the stairs.
Fire Dynamics Simulation of 2011 Baltimore County LODD- 30 Dowling
Fire Dynamics Analysis and Insights
Assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Fire Research Laboratory (FRL) was requested for a fire at 30 Dowling Circle by the Baltimore County Fire Investigation Division (FID) through the ATF Baltimore Field Division on the night of January 19, 2011.
ATF Fire Protection Engineers were asked to utilize engineering analysis methods, including computer fire modeling, to assist with determining the route of fire spread and the events that led to the firefighter MAYDAY and subsequent Line of Duty Death.
Working closely with the Post Incident Analysis Team, the ATF Fire Research Laboratory created a computer simulation of the garden apartment building using Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS). FDS is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling program developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
FDS utilizes mathematical calculations to predict the flow of heat, smoke and other products of fire. Smokeview, a post-processer computer program also produced by NIST, was then used to visualize the mathematical output from FDS. The most current available versions of both programs were used: FDS 5.5.3 and Smokeview 5.6. Below are photographs of the front and rear of the fire building next to an image of the same building constructed in FDS.
Figure 01. 30 Dowling Street
Figure 2. FDS representation of the front of 30 Dowling Circle showing the terrace (T), second (A) and third (B) levels.
The garden apartment building at 30 Dowling Circle was attached to two similar garden apartment buildings, one on each side. The fire damage was isolated to 30 Dowling Circle, so the exposure buildings were not included in the computer fire model. The entire six unit garden apartment building was modeled in FDS, including the patio and balconies on the rear of the building. FDS works by dividing a space into cubical “grid cells” for calculation purposes. FDS then computes various CFD calculations for each grid cell to predict the movement of mass, energy, momentum and species throughout a three-dimensional space.
The Dowling Circle model consisted of 2,560,000 total grid cells that were each 3.9 inch (10 cm) cubes. The model was used to simulate a total elapsed real time of 27.5 minutes, beginning before the 911 call and ending just after flashover of the third floor and the firefighter MAYDAY.
The model was synchronized in real time with the fireground audio throughout the duration of the fire.
Fiqure 03 and 04
FDS has been validated to predict the movement of heat and smoke throughout a compartment, however the accuracy of fire modeling depends on it being used appropriately by a trained user that is aware of its limitations. Due to lack of knowledge about the exact material properties for the various furnishings and other available fuels, a user-specified fire progression was used for this application.
For flame and fire gas movement after consumption of the original burning fuel packages, the fire model calculated smoke and ventilation flow paths through the building and was used to gain a better understanding of the rapid fire growth leading to flashover of the stairwell and third floor.
In addition, FDS was utilized to illustrate the complex route of fire spread through the building as verified by witness statements, firefighter interviews, photographs and burn patterns.
Input data for the computer model included heat release rate data and video from previous testing conducted by the ATF FRL and NIST.
Ambient weather data was also input into the model, including temperature, as well as wind direction and magnitude at the time of the fire. In addition, several alternative compartmentation scenarios were modeled to explore the possible effects of closed stairway apartment entrance doors on the spread of smoke and flames in the stairwell.
The statements of each firefighter were reviewed and their individual actions (breaking windows, opening doors, etc.) and observations (fire size, smoke conditions, etc.) were recorded on floor diagrams.
The actions and observations of the firefighters were then associated with specific times in the fireground audio to generate an overall event timeline. All events in the model are based on this master timeline of events. In addition, all photographs were time stamped and synchronized with the model. The Post Incident Analysis Team was consulted throughout the development of the event timeline and the computer fire model to ensure accuracy.
1. Analysis of Fire Development in the Terrace Level
The fire originated on the stovetop of an occupied apartment on the right (south) side of the terrace level (apartment T2). Flames from a grease fire ignited kitchen cabinets, eventually causing the kitchen to flashover into the attached living room. Upon fire department arrival, a fully developed fire existed in the living room and kitchen of apartment T2. Prior to exiting the apartment, the occupant opened both the rear sliding door and the apartment entrance door in an attempt to ventilate smoke from the apartment.
Figure 06. A typical floor plan of the right side apartments at 30 Dowling Circle.
An analysis of the ventilation flow path through the apartment with FDS indicated that a significant unidirectional flow path existed up the stairs with an inlet at the rear terrace sliding door and outlet at the front apartment entrance door leading to the stairwell.
Figure 7. Smokeview frame of the rear of the building indicating the fire origin and smoke spread within the T2 apartment. Figure 8. View of smoke flow out of kitchen and open sliding glass door (center of photo) in the rear of apartment T2. Figure 9. Smokeview frame of flashover of the kitchen with flames extending into the living room. Flames also begin to extend out of the rear sliding door and impact the balcony above.
Figure 10. Ignition of second level balcony resulting from flame extension from living room.
This unidirectional flow path up the stairs is difficult to combat and is often experienced during basement fires as crews attempt to descend interior stairs. The model indicates sustained air temperatures in the stairwell of approximately 600 Fahrenheit (315 Celsius) at velocities of approximately 6 mph (2.7 m/s) from floor to ceiling as crews attempted to descend the stairs. This is consistent with statements from firefighting crews, who experienced extremely high heat conditions and indicated periodically seeing flames in the smoke layer flowing up the stairs.
The elevated air velocity of the stairwell flow path resulted in a high rate of convective energy transfer to the structural firefighting gear and high perceived temperatures as the firefighters attempted to descend the stairs. Firefighting crews flowed a hoseline down the stairs to combat the high temperatures; however no significant cooling was noticed by firefighters because the hose stream could not reach the seat of the fully developed fire in the kitchen area.
The crews were simply cooling the ventilation flow path without cooling the source of the energy in the apartment. It was not until a hose stream was directed through an exterior window and a portion of the fire was extinguished that gas temperatures and velocities began to decrease, allowing firefighters to make entry to the terrace apartment via the stairs.
Figure 12. Smokeview section frame showing unidirectional flow of approximately 600 Fahrenheit (315 Celsius) gases out of the stairwell entrance door
Front photo of unidirectional flow of smoke up stairwell from apartment T2. Note the high volume of smoke from floor to ceiling as the stairwell door serves as the flow path outlet. The ground ladder in the foreground was used to rescue an occupant on the third floor trapped by heavy smoke in the stairwell. (Refer to Figure 014)
Figure 014. Front photo of unidirectional flow of smoke up stairwell from apartment T2. Note the high volume of smoke from floor to ceiling as the stairwell door serves as the flow path outlet.
The first arriving engine, E-11, was staffed with a Captain, Lieutenant, Driver/Operator, and a Firefighter. Upon arrival at 1820 hours, the Captain gave a brief initial report describing a three story garden apartment with smoke showing from side Alpha: “The Captain of E-11 will have Command and we are initiating an aggressive interior attack with a 1 ¾” hand line”. Command also instructed the second due engine to bring him a supply line from the hydrant.
A female resident (victim # 1) appeared in a third floor apartment window, Alpha/Bravo side (Apt. B-1), yelled for assistance, and threatened to jump. Smoke or fire was visible from any of the third floor windows. At 1823 hours, Command advised Dispatch that he had a rescue and that he was establishing Limited Command. Fire Dispatch was in the process of upgrading the response profile to an apartment fire with rescue when the responding Battalion Chief requested that the fire box be upgraded to a fire rescue box. While the Firefighter and Lieutenant prepared for entry into the building, the Captain and Driver/Operator extended a ladder to the 3rd floor apartment window and rescued the resident. The first attempt by the Firefighter and Lieutenant to make entry into the side Alpha entrance was unsuccessful due to the extreme heat and smoke conditions.
The second due engine, E-10, arrived at 1823 with staffing of a Captain, Lieutenant, Driver/Operator, and a Firefighter. At 1823, E-10’s crew brought a 4″ supply line to E-11 from the hydrant at Deanwood Rd. and Dowling Circle and assisted the first-in crew with fire attack.
The Captain from E-10 conferred with Command and was instructed to advance a second 1 ¾” hand line.
The window to the first floor right apartment (Apt. T-2) was removed, and the second 1 ¾” line was advanced to the building by the crew of E-10.
Fire attack was initiated through the removed window. At 1827, Command requested a second alarm.
At this time, heat and smoke conditions just inside the front door improved enough to allow the Firefighter and Lieutenant from E-11 to make entry through the front door and into the stairwell. There they encountered heavy, thick black smoke and high heat conditions coming up the stairs from the terrace level apartment. The Lieutenant reported that the doorway to the first floor apartment was orange with fire and he had to fight his way through heavy heat and smoke conditions to attack the fire in the first floor right apartment (Apt. T-2). Entry was made approximately 3 feet into the doorway when the Firefighter’s low air alarm began to sound, and he exited the building. A member from E-10’s crew replaced the Firefighter from E-11 on the hose line.
At the same time, the Captain from E-11 proceeded to the rear of the structure to complete his initial 360 degree size up. He noted that there was fire emanating from the open sliding doors on the first floor Charlie/Delta apartment (Apt. T-2), extending to the balcony above. E-1, staffed by a Captain, Driver/Operator, and two Firefighters arrived and completed the hookup of the supply line that had been laid to the hydrant by E-10. The rest of Engine 1’s crew grabbed tools and an extension ladder and reported to the Charlie side of the building.
Figure 015 Charlie Side ( Rear) Extension
The Photo above referenced as Figure 015 shows conditions from rear of flames in apartment T2 and extension to the balcony above. Note the relative minimal volume of smoke as the sliding door serves as the inlet for ventilation into the apartment. The smoke and heat is flowing in from the rear, through the apartment and up the stairs.
This unidirectional flow path up the stairs is difficult to combat and is often experienced during basement fires as crews attempt to descend interior stairs.
The model indicates sustained air temperatures in the stairwell of approximately 600 Fahrenheit (315 Celsius) at velocities of approximately 6 mph (2.7 m/s) from floor to ceiling as crews attempted to descend the stairs.
This is consistent with statements from firefighting crews, who experienced extremely high heat conditions and indicated periodically seeing flames in the smoke layer flowing up the stairs.
The elevated air velocity of the stairwell flow path resulted in a high rate of convective energy transfer to the structural firefighting gear and high perceived temperatures as the firefighters attempted to descend the stairs.
Firefighting crews flowed a hoseline down the stairs to combat the high temperatures; however no significant cooling was noticed by firefighters because the hose stream could not reach the seat of the fully developed fire in the kitchen area.
The crews were simply cooling the ventilation flow path without cooling the source of the energy in the apartment.
It was not until a hose stream was directed through an exterior window and a portion of the fire was extinguished that gas temperatures and velocities began to decrease, allowing firefighters to make entry to the terrace apartment via the stairs.
Plan view of flow path and temperatures within the apartment. Note the location of the seat of the fire and the location of initial hose stream application down the stairs.
Photograph of hoselines being positioned at the stairwell entrance door and front window. Note the heavy smoke venting from all front openings in apartment T2. (Figure 017)
Figure 017 Alpha Side Entry Door
Figure 017 Hoselines being positioned at the stairwell entrance door and front window. Rapid Fire Progression Leading to Flashover of the Third LevelFlames extended upwards from the T2 apartment sliding door and ignited the rear balconies of the second and third level apartments above.
Fire on the second floor balcony extended into apartment A2 by failing the sliding glass door and igniting vertical plastic slat curtains that were suspended above.As crews searched within the second floor apartment, they noted seeing the burning curtains on the floor with flames extending to a nearby couch (containing polyurethane foam padding) adjacent to the sliding doorway.
The fire continued to grow unsuppressed and spread to a second couch as interior firefighting crews were engaged in rescuing two victims from the living room in the second floor apartment.Personnel stated that at this point fire conditions seemed to improve, suggesting that crews were making progress extinguishing the fire. (The first arriving attack crew reported that they were able to see apparatus lights through the sliding doors on Charlie side, which indicated to them that smoke and fire conditions were improving.)Truck 1, a tiller unit staffed by a Lieutenant, two Driver/Operators, and a Firefighter, arrived on side Alpha and immediately began search and rescue operations.
Windows on the second floor Alpha/Delta side apartment (Apt. A-2) were vented and ladders were thrown to gain access. T-8 arrived at the alley on side Charlie. E-1 extended a ground ladder to the third floor balcony on the Charlie/Bravo side of the structure (Apt. B-1), and made access to the apartment to search for additional victims.They noted fire venting from the first floor Charlie/Delta apartment (Apt. T-2) out of the sliding glass doors progressing upwards towards the balcony on the second floor.
Upon entering the apartment, they conducted a primary search and noted minimal heat with light smoke conditions.The crew accessed the hallway via the apartment entry door and noticed an increase in the temperature and the amount of smoke.They immediately closed the door and exited the apartment via the ground ladder.Upon exiting the apartment, E-1’s crew observed E-292 on the scene with a hand line extending into the apartment of origin, (first floor, Charlie/Delta side, Apt. T-2).
The officer on E-1 noted white smoke coming from the unit.Having already laid a supply line from the intersection of the alley and Deanwood Road, E-292’s crew extended a 1 ¾” hand line into the apartment of origin. Moderate fire conditions with zero visibility were encountered, and they reported feeling a great deal of heat on their knees as they crawled through the apartment.The Lieutenant and the Firefighter from Truck-1 entered Apartment A-2 via a second floor bedroom window (Alpha/Delta side) and began a search for additional victims. As they traversed the living room area they found an unconscious male resident (victim #2).
At 1836 hours, the Lieutenant notified Command via an urgent transmission that a victim had been located and they needed assistance with evacuation. The Lieutenant and Firefighter noted a small fire in the rear corner near the victim as they exited the room. The crew returned to the bedroom from which they had entered and closed the door behind them. Victim #2 was then evacuated from the apartment via a ground ladder through the bedroom window, and transferred to EMS personnel on side Alpha.
Figure 019 Flame extension and suppression efforts at the rear of the structure. Flames caused the second level glass slider to fail and ignite plastic curtains in the doorway located
The middle level apartment (A2) entrance door was opened by a second search crew around the same time as the second couch ignited, creating a ventilation flow path from the second floor balcony, through the apartment, and upwards into the stairwell (third floor). This flow path follows the same general route through the apartment and into the stairwell as was seen in the terrace level apartment below. Squad 303’s crew arrived on scene after the bulk of the fire in the terrace level apartment had been suppressed and appeared to be under control. The crew entered the front stairwell, which had minimal smoke up to the second level and the crew began to systematically search the building.
Squad 303’s crew proceeded to search two apartments before entering the third floor right side apartment to conduct a search, leaving the entrance door open. It should also be noted that carpeting impacted the bottom of the door and prevented the apartment entrance doors on the second and third levels from closing automatically. The entry doors had to be actively pushed closed to overcome the friction of the carpet.
Photo depicting building smoke and fire conditions around the arrival of Squad 303.
Note the lack of heavy smoke or fire in the stairwell or terrace level.
There is also no indication of the growing fire in the second (middle) level apartment.
When Squad 303’s crew of two firefighters entered the third level apartment (B2), smoke was banked about halfway down the walls with moderate visibility. The crew could clearly see the floor of the apartment without the need to crawl below the smoke layer to search. Squad 303’s crew was unaware of the flames spreading across the two couches in the second floor apartment below them. The crew split in order to search the apartment faster, with one firefighter searching the front bedrooms and the officer searching the kitchen and living room.
As flames in the second level began to rollover into the apartment entranceway, the smoke layer in the third level quickly dropped to the floor with a rapid increase in temperature. With Squad 303’s crew searching above, flames began to extend into the stairwell, supplied by sufficient ventilation flowing through the apartment. This combination of fuel, heat and oxygen rich fresh air resulted in a rapid increase in heat release rate and flashover of the second level apartment followed by full room involvement.
The open entrance doors on the second and third levels created a ventilation flow path through the second floor apartment, into the sealed stairwell and up through the third floor apartment directly above. The flames followed this flow path and extended from the second floor, through the stairwell and into the living room area of the third floor apartment. Flashover of the third floor occurred approximately 30 seconds after the second floor experienced flashover.
Figure 026 and 027
Rollover from the second level apartment into the stairwell.
Flames followed the ventilation flow path and extend into the third floor apartment, resulting in ignition of the couches just inside the doorway.
Command sounded the building evacuation tones as flames extended into the hallway and up to the third level apartment.
Two couches just inside the entrance door on the third level ignited, blocking the primary means of egress for both firefighters from Squad 303. Upon hearing the evacuation horns from the trucks, the second firefighter from Squad 303 (searching the front bedrooms) attempted to exit the apartment via the apartment entrance door, however he was blocked by flames in the living room and stairwell.
Trapped in the bedroom, the firefighter bailed out headfirst down a ground ladder on the front side from the third floor. Squad 303 officer’s means of egress through the apartment entrance door was also blocked by the flames in the living room and stairwell. There were no windows located in the rear of the apartment.
The only means of escape was the balcony slider, however the entire balcony was engulfed in flames from the fully involved apartment below. With both escape routes blocked by flames and experiencing extremely high heat conditions, Squad 303’s officer requested assistance and declared a MAYDAY from the rear of the third floor apartment.
Firefighters re-entered the structure to combat the fire and locate the trapped firefighter. The downed firefighter was eventually located on the third level just inside the sliding glass door and was removed to the rear balcony. The firefighter was then extricated in a stokes rescue basket down the aerial ladder of a truck located in the rear, where he was subsequently transported to the hospital.
Effects of Compartmentation on Fire Spread
The Post Incident Analysis Team requested that alternate modeling scenarios be conducted to explore the effects of compartmentation on fire spread throughout the building.
The team specifically wanted to know how the ventilation flow paths through the stairwell would differ if the second or third level apartment entry doors were shut after entering/leaving the apartments. Two alternate computer fire modeling scenarios were conducted.
The first alternative modeling run featured the exact same fire scenario, except the second (middle) level apartment door was closed after the last victim was removed from that apartment. The apartment entry doors from the stairwell were fire-rated doors constructed of solid wood.
As soon as the door is shut, the ventilation flow path through the apartment and up the stairwell is blocked.
Shutting the second level apartment door blocks the flow path and flame extension into the stairwell.
Even with the third floor apartment door left open, the model indicates that the stairwell and third floor remain tenable for firefighters. Flames eventually extend from the third floor balcony into the apartment, however the escape routes through the stairwell and the front apartment windows are accessible.
The model indicates that closing the second level apartment door prevents the flow of smoke, heat and other products of combustion from entering the stairwell, thus preventing flashover of the stairwell and the third level. As long as the second floor entry door remains shut, the model indicated that the conditions within the stairwell and third floor remain tenable for firefighters, even with the third floor apartment door open.
A second alternative modeling scenario was conducted where the third level entrance door was closed after crews made entry to search the apartment.The same fire conditions from the actual model were used.When the door remained closed, the outlet of the ventilation flow path was blocked at the top of the stairs. Without a complete flow path, there wasn’t sufficient oxygen flowing through the second floor apartment to support extended burning in the stairwell.
Consequently after flashover of the second floor, the flames in the stairwell only exist momentarily before consuming all available oxygen and becoming ventilation limited.The fire model indicated that temperatures within the third floor apartment stayed tenable for firefighters, even with a fully developed fire on the second floor and flames in the stairwell.
Flames would eventually extend up the rear balcony to the third level, however they would not block egress through the living room and front windows of the apartment.By closing the apartment door on the third floor and blocking the outlet for fire gases emanating from the second floor apartment, the third floor apartment remains tenable for firefighting crews and the temperatures only briefly spike in the stairwell before the fire becomes ventilation limited.The ventilation flow through the apartments results in an increased burning rate within both the second and third levels, as well as the stairwell.
Results of each modeling scenario describing extent of flame spread
Results of each modeling scenario describing extent of flame spread.
The Effects of Compartmentation on Fire Damage to the StructureThe impact of compartmentation on fire and smoke spread is evident by examining the post-fire damage throughout the structure. While other factors contributed to the relative fire damage, including fire department overhaul and relative apartment configuration, analyzing the damage to the building and the position of the apartment entry doors provides insight on the benefits of compartmentation.
By closing apartment unit entrance doors and interior hollow core doors, one can slow or even block the ventilation flow path through the structure, thus significantly reducing the rate of fire spread. The photos below represent the post-fire damage in all six apartments within the fire building. Four of the six apartment entry doors were open for the majority of the fire and the relative difference in damage is clearly evident.
Terrace level stairwell landing looking into T1 (left) and T2 (right) apartments.
Door Closed……Door Open
Using doors to compartmentalize and limit fire and smoke spread in a structure is not limited to fire-rated entrance doors. Interior hollow core doors also offer considerable protection for compartmentation purposes.
A search crew utilizing the Vent, Enter and Search (VES) technique through a front window used a hollow core bedroom door to isolate themselves from the developing fire in the living room of apartment A2.
As the crews removed the second victim from the living room to the bedroom, they shut the bedroom hollow core door behind them.
The living room soon experienced flashover followed by full room involvement, however the bedroom remained isolated from the heat and smoke for the duration of the fire. The photos below illustrate this effective use of compartmentation to protect firefighters during a search.
Controling the Doors during VES
While no fire model will exactly replicate a fire, this model provided insight on the route of fire spread, the rapid fire growth leading to flashover of the second and third level, and the benefits of compartmentation on slowing fire and smoke spread.
The unidirectional flow path up the stairs from the terrace level apartment resulted in a high rate of convective heat transfer to the firefighters initially attempting to descend the stairs, making attacking the seat of the fire very difficult.
The model then supported the fact that the main stairwell acted as an open channel for fire and smoke spread between the second and third levels, resulting in flashover of the third level in approximately 30 seconds after the second level.
This rapid fire growth leading to flashover is supported by photographs, witness statements and fireground audio.
The model was then utilized to explore the effects of compartmentation using apartment entrance doors.
The FDS model supported the scene observations and indicated that shutting the entrance doors blocked the flow of buoyancy driven fire gases through the structure, ultimately preventing fire extension to the third floor apartment via the stairwell.
The FDS model was utilized as part of the overall engineering analysis of this tragic fire and allowed for a better understanding of the events that led to the firefighter MAYDAY and subsequent Line of Duty Death.
The model was also used as an educational tool providing insight on potential methods of preventing similar tragedies in the future.
The results of this engineering analysis are intended to be reviewed by the Post Incident Analysis Team to assist in the creation of recommendations to mitigate the danger associated with future fire incidents.
Here’s a promo for the program; “Adaptive Fireground Management for Company and Command Officers”: that will be presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference- FDIC on Thursday April 19, 2012 10:30 am in Wabash 2. If you’re attending FDIC this year, plan to mark this program down as one of your stops. I look forward to meeting “youz guys”.
This class presents new insights into emerging concepts and methodologies related to the challenges that arise while fighting today’s structural fires today. Extreme fire behavior, building construction, and occupancy risk mandate new strategic, tactical, and operational modeling. Students will be introduced to a new integrated model that represents new methodologies for predictive risk management, command compression and resiliency, tactical patience, and five-star command theories. This program has direct relevancy to all operational levels and ranks with specific focus toward company- and command-level responsibilities. INTERMEDIATE
Hose Streams and Fire Suppression Research from the NIST
Little, if any, fire suppression research has been conducted on the effectiveness of fire streams from manual hose lines during the past 50 years. Determining the effectiveness of a range of water application methods could have impact on the tactical decisions, equipment choices and water supply requirements that affect fire departments across the country.
Preliminary experiments examining the distribution of different hose streams.
This project examines a variety of fire fighting hose stream characteristics related to flow, distribution and thermal impact from both solid and fog stream nozzles. A series of real scale, laboratory based experiments have been started to look specifically at the water discharge and distribution characteristics, the impact of hose streams on a hot gas layer in a compartment, the impact of hose streams on gas flows through multi-compartment structures, and the suppression effectiveness on burning piles of wooden pallets. Based on data collected from these experiments, empirical FDS input sets for a solid stream and a narrow fog will be developed in order to re-create the results of the experiments. The final phase of the project will be to conduct a set of real scale validation fire experiments.
The spray measurements and data obtained from the previous full scale fire test series have been used to create a first-order hose stream model for implementation in FDS. The model is currently being refined with data from the following experiments:
Preliminary experiments examining the impact of different
hose streams on a pallet fire.
Characterize the hose streams in terms of nozzle pressure, flow rate, area of influence and water distribution.
Measure the ability of the hose streams to reduce the heat release rate of wood pallet fires burning in the open with no “compartmentation effects”.
Measure the ability of the hose streams to reduce the temperature of a hot gas layer in a compartment.
Measure the ability of the hose streams to reduce the heat release rate of the wood pallet fires burning in a compartment.
Measure the ability of the hose streams to impact ventilation and movement of fire gases in a multi-compartment structure.
Once the data from the above experiments is integrated into the hose stream models, the ability of FDS to predict the impacts of the water delivered by hose streams on the full fire environment will be examined in order to determine the capabilities and limitations of the hose stream models.
The final result from this research will provide a “manual hose line” suppression capability in FDS enabling the results to be used as a portion of a computer based training tool for firefighters. In addition, engineering predictions can be developed for hose streams and other manual water application techniques to provide guidance in the design and use of these fire fighting tools.
New report shows lower number of fires but increased fire deaths
Public fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires in the United States during 2010, a slight decrease from the previous year and the lowest number since 1977, according to a new report (759 KB) issued by the National Fire Protection Association(NFPA).
These fires caused an estimated 3,120 civilian fire deaths, a 4 percent increase from a year ago; an estimated 17,720 civilian fire injuries, also a 4 percent increase from the previous year; and more than $11.5 billion in property damage, a significant decrease from the year before.
Fire Loss in the U.S. analyzes 2010 figures for fires, civilian fire deaths, injuries, property damage, and intentionally set fires. Estimates are based on data collected from fire departments that responded to NFPA’s Annual National Fire Experience Survey.
There were an estimated 482,000 structure fires reported to fire departments in 2010, a very slight increase from a year ago. The number of structure fires was at their peak in 1977, the first year that NFPA implemented its current survey methodology, when 1,098,000 structure fires occurred.
“We have made tremendous progress in reducing the fire problem in the United States since we began looking at these numbers in the late 70’s,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Communications for NFPA. “But this report shows us that more must be done to bring the numbers down even further. We continue to see the vast majority of deaths occurring in homes, a place where people often feel safest. These survey results will be combined with data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) to determine how often specific fire circumstances occur and where we can most effectively focus our efforts.”
Other key findings from the report include:
A fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds.
384,000 fires or 80 percent of all structure fires occurred in residential properties.
About 85 percent of all fire deaths occurred in the home.
215,500 vehicle fires occurred in the U.S. during 2010, causing 310 civilian fire deaths, 1,590 civilian fire injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage.
634,000 outside and other fires occurred in the U.S. during 2010 causing $501 million in property damage.
Rapid Fire Extension is Evident due to the Unprotected/Exposed Framing
A three-story apartment building that was under construction caught fire late this past week durinfgthe early evening in Carson, California (LA County). The fast moving fire rapidly extended through an apartment building complex under construction and spread to a nearby mobile home park damaging at least 10 homes and forcing evacuations, according to published reports. There were no reports of injuries.
The flames engulfing the building site at 21828 South Avalon Boulevard turned the working construction site into a 3-alarm fire shortly after 17:00 hours.
Over 100 firefighters from 40 companies responded and worked the greater alarm fire, with rapid and effective fire control attained in short order in the early evening hours.
Construction sites, especially those with exposed phased wood framing pose significant operational challenges and demands.
First arriving response companies and command must quickly determine the size and magnitude of any rapidly advancing fire and efficiency determine an aggressive action plan that must be deployed rapidly while immediately considering the need for additional resources.
Normally, offensive strategic and tactical measures are highly ineffective due to the need to place operating companies in advance positions that may have high risk parameters subjecting companies to unacceptable safety risks.
The need for rapid and highly mobile hose line placement that must be sized appropriately with flow and delivery for the fire magnitude precludes hand line placement and results in the need to place portable monitors, deck monitors and elevated master streams into operation.
Safety and accountability are high priorities at multiple alarm incidents involving a construction site.
Aerial View of the Primary Fire Complex and Mobile Home Park Exposures to the right of the image
The blaze was rapidly progressing out of control when the first fire units arrived about three minutes after the incident was reported, officials said. The first-in company requested additional alarms due to the fast movement of the fire and its intensity.
The three-story structure had more than 100 units and was being framed. This open framing phase of construction is highly susceptible to fire exposure and ripid development and extension. The large volume of wood, coupled with the open spaces, allowed wind to blow through the structure and stoke the blaze, officials said. That radiated heat combined with wind gusts sent the fire into a nearby mobile home park. More than 139 mobile homes were evacuated. At least 10 homes in the park were damaged by flames.
The entire 139-unit mobile home park was evacuated after the fire and residents were not be allowed to return overnight. The other two senior living buildings on the property were also evacuated, but residents were being allowed back in late into the evening.
The total damage estimate was $3.1 million, with $2.5 million for the senior living center and $600,000 for the mobile home park.Investigators have ruled out arson in a fire that burned through part of a multi-story residential complex under construction in Carson, according to later reports.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the sheriff’s arson and explosives detail determined that the fire was accidental, although an exact cause will not be available, probably for several weeks, per the sheriff’s headquarters bureau.
Some Highlighted Operational Considerations (not inclusive)
Pre-Fire Plan Large Construction Projects
Understand the various Phases to a Construction Project and site and how they affect fire operations at the various stages; there is a difference
Identify and train for non-conventional Strategic and Tactical operational actions
Ensure predetermined multiple alarm resources are identified and greater alarms are established
Train your Company and Command Officers to identify correct IAPs and Manage Construction site fires
Maintain an appropriate risk profile balance with operational needs; with personnel safety being foremost
Clearly establish multiple Safety Offices and establish geographical resources within the incident management system for reconnaissance, communications, oversight and focused safety monitoring
Know you water supply and system capabilities and limitations
Determine fire flow needs based upon construction phases, as these change over time as the building goes up. Match fire flow demands with resource availability (time of day gaps etc.)
Identify exposures (Physical structures and Civilians) and ensure they are calculated into the incident action plan at the right time, before they become immediate identified needs or concerns
Companies shall maintain a conservative safety posture; this is not the time for overly aggressive firefighting- it is the time for smart firefighting that can be highly efficient with appropriate tactics and company officer supervision
Always consider collapse zones: partial or complete. Stay out of them! Be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness
Respect the wind; it’s not going to help you
Consider current and projected weather conditions in your operational and tactical plans and assignments; plan ahead
Did I already say: Pre-fire Planning?
Be calculated in the placement of your apparatus, especially in larger scale incidents that are defined under greater geographical divisions; Think ahead
The fire usually consumes the available fuel load rapidly; going from a Huge fire, to one that is sometimes much more manageable; watch and control your exposures and degree of fire extension. Don’t help to make the fire even bigger through ineffective and dysfunctional command and control
Anticipate, Project, Plan and Engage
Respect the Fire: it’s not going to play by the regular rules of combat fire suppression and engagment as you would expect to find in finished and enclosed structures and buildings.
How prepared are you to address a rapidly developing fire in a building or construction site; as the first-due Company Officer or as the Commanding Officer?
Is your company, battalion or department capably trained and skilled to address this type of demanding incident operation?
Do you have any training or operational gaps?
Do you have any construction sites working in your first-due or greater alarm or mutual aid areas? If so, then – Maybe you need to do any pre-fire planning…..?
Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction
Another must read for all Company and Command Officers:Impact of ventilation on fire behavior in legacy and contemporary residential construction, by Steve Kerber (2011) UL Report. Take some time to increase your proficiencies and compentencies.
Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to FirefighterGrant Program, Underwriters Laboratories examined fire service ventilation practices as well as the impact of changes in modern house geometries. There has been a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades. These changes include larger homes, more open floor plans and volumes and increased synthetic fuel loads. This series of experiments examine this change in fire behavior and the impact on firefighter ventilation tactics.
This fire research project developed the empirical data that is needed to quantify the fire behavior associated with these scenarios and result in immediately developing the necessary firefighting ventilation practices to reduce firefighter death and injury.
Two houses were constructed in the large fire facility of Underwriters Laboratories inNorthbrook, IL. The first of two houses constructed was a one-story, 1200 ft2, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with 8 total rooms. The second house was a two-story 3200 ft2, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with 12 total rooms. The second house featured a modern open floor plan, two story great room and open foyer. Fifteen experiments were conducted varying the ventilation locations and the number of ventilation openings. Ventilation scenarios included ventilating the front door only, opening the front door and a window near and remote from the seat of the fire, opening a window only and ventilating a higher opening in the two-story house. One scenario in each house was conducted in triplicate to examine repeatability.
The results of these experiments provide knowledge for the fire service for them to examine their thought processes, standard operating procedures and training content. Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments to provide specific examples of changes that can be adopted based on a departments current strategies and tactics.
The tactical considerations addressed include:
Stages of fire development: The stages of fire development change when a fire becomes ventilation limited. It is common with today’s fire environment to have a decay period prior to flashover which emphasizes the importance of ventilation.
Forcing the front door is ventilation: Forcing entry has to be thought of as ventilation as well. While forcing entry is necessary to fight the fire it must also trigger the thought that air is being fed to the fire and the clock is ticking before either the fire gets extinguished or it grows until an untenable condition exists jeopardizing the safety of everyone in the structure.
No smoke showing: A common event during the experiments was that once the fire became ventilation limited the smoke being forced out of the gaps of the houses greatly diminished or stopped all together. No some showing during size-up should increase awareness of the potential conditions inside.
Coordination: If you add air to the fire and don’t apply water in the appropriate time frame the fire gets larger and safety decreases. Examining the times to untenability gives the best case scenario of how coordinated the attack needs to be. Taking the average time for every experiment from the time of ventilation to the time of the onset of firefighter untenability conditions yields 100 seconds for the one-story house and 200 seconds for the two-story house. In many of the experiments from the onset of firefighter untenability until flashover was less than 10 seconds. These times should be treated as being very conservative. If a vent location already exists because the homeowner left a window or door open then the fire is going to respond faster to additional ventilation opening because the temperatures in the house are going to be higher. Coordination of fire attack crew is essential for a positive outcome in today’s fire environment.
Smoke tunneling and rapid air movement through the front door: Once the front door is opened attention should be given to the flow through the front door. A rapid in rush of air or a tunneling effect could indicate a ventilation limited fire.
Vent Enter Search (VES): During a VES operation, primary importance should be given to closing the door to the room. This eliminates the impact of the open vent and increases tenability for potential occupants and firefighters while the smoke ventilates from the now isolated room.
Flow paths: Every new ventilation opening provides a new flow path to the fire and vice versa. This could create very dangerous conditions when there is a ventilation limited fire.
Can you vent enough?: In the experiments where multiple ventilation locations were made it was not possible to create fuel limited fires. The fire responded to all the additional air provided. That means that even with a ventilation location open the fire is still ventilation limited and will respond just as fast or faster to any additional air. It is more likely that the fire will respond faster because the already open ventilation location is allowing the fire to maintain a higher temperature than if everything was closed. In these cases rapid fire progression if highly probable and coordination of fire attack with ventilation is paramount.
Impact of shut door on occupant tenability and firefighter tenability: Conditions in every experiment for the closed bedroom remained tenable for temperature and oxygen concentration thresholds. This means that the act of closing a door between the occupant and the fire or a firefighter and the fire can increase the chance of survivability. During firefighter operations if a firefighter is searching ahead of a hose line or becomes separated from his crew and conditions deteriorate then a good choice of actions would be to get in a room with a closed door until the fire is knocked down or escape out of the room’s window with more time provided by the closed door.
Potential impact of open vent already on flashover time: All of these experiments were designed to examine the first ventilation actions by an arriving crew when there are no ventilation openings. It is possible that the fire will fail a window prior to fire department arrival or that a door or window was left open by the occupant while exiting. It is important to understand that an already open ventilation location is providing air to the fire, allowing it to sustain or grow.
Pushing fire: There were no temperature spikes in any of the rooms, especially the rooms adjacent to the fire room when water was applied from the outside. It appears that in most cases the fire was slowed down by the water application and that external water application had no negative impacts to occupant survivability. While the fog stream “pushed” steam along the flow path there was no fire “pushed”.
No damage to surrounding rooms: Just as the fire triangle depicts, fire needs oxygen to burn. A condition that existed in every experiment was that the fire (living room or family room) grew until oxygen was reduced below levels to sustain it. This means that it decreased the oxygen in the entire house by lowering the oxygen in surrounding rooms and the more remote bedrooms until combustion was not possible. In most cases surrounding rooms such as the dining room and kitchen had no fire in them even when the fire room was fully involved in flames and was ventilating out of the structure.
UL Report; Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction,
Cherokee County (GA) Fire and Emergency Services and Woodstock (GA) Fire Department personnel responded to a structure fire at 811 Commons Court, located in the Kingston Square Subdivision, off Highway 92, just east of Woodstock (GA) sunday night for a reported fire in a residential structure; with reports of trapped occupants. During suppression operations, three Cherokee County firefighters were trapped in the basement for a short period of time due the catastrophic collapse of a front wall-floor assembly resulting in the collapse of the entry porch floor system on the alpha division.
Cherokee County 911 received the call of the fire at 1:30 Sunday regarding a structure fire with possible entrapment. Firefighters quickly responded to the scene to find the house fully involved and began a defensive attack. Two Cherokee County firefighters and one Woodstock firefighters were standing on the porch of the structure when it collapsed. The three firefighters were pulled from the burning structure and were later taken by ambulance to Marietta’s Kennestone Hospital.
According to information posted on the Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services web site and other published media reports, two Cherokee County Firefighters were treated and released and one firefighter is still in ICU at a local hospital, struggling to survive; with smoke inhalation and lung injuries resulting from the falling bricks that struck him during the collapse.
According to one report, the three engine company firefighters were operating a handline for an exended period of time on the porch of the home (Alpha side) when the floor and wall assembly gave way beneath them, sending them tumbling into the basement below. The adjacent wall and canopy fell on top of the firefighters after falling into the area below. An aerial view of the residence shows a raised ranch style structure with a garage and basement configuration below the main floor. According to public records, the single family wood frame house was built in 1986 and was comprised of 1,910 square feet of occupied space, with three bredrooms.
Aerial View of the Residential Occupancy (Bing)
Unfortunately due to the degree of fire involvment and susequent collapse, firefighters were unable to reach the elderly couple, a 78 year old man and his 77 year old wife, who perished in the early morning fire. The couple’s daughter and her 25 year old son were also living with the couple and they escaped without injury.
CommandSafety: Floor Collaspe Safety Insights; HERE
We posted some extensive information over at CommandSafety.com related to two past LODD events from 2006 and 2009 along with a number of pertainent informational links realted to floor collapse, firefighter near miss events involving floor compromise and collapse.
Take some time to link over to our sister site and check out the information. (HERE)
We’ll follow up on this event to see if we can gain further insights related to the structural conditions, construction features and contributing factors that lead to the floor collapse.
NIOSH recently issued its report on a recycling facility fire that occurred on July 13, 2010, in which seven career fire fighters were injured while fighting a fire at a large commercial structure containing recyclable combustible metals. At 2345 hours, 3 engines, 2 trucks, 2 rescue ambulances, an emergency medical service (EMS) officer and a battalion chief responded to a large commercial structure with heavy fire showing. Within minutes, a division chief, 2 battalion chiefs, 3 engines, 3 trucks, 4 rescue ambulances, 2 EMS officers and an urban search and rescue team were also dispatched.
An offensive fire attack was initially implemented but because of rapidly deteriorating conditions, operations switched to a defensive attack after about 12 minutes on scene. Ladder pipe operations were established on the 3 street accessible sides of the structure. Approximately 40 minutes into the incident, a large explosion propelled burning shrapnel into the air, causing small fires north and south of structure, injuring 7 fire fighters, and damaging apparatus and equipment. Realizing that combustible metals may be present, the incident commander ordered fire fighters to fight the fire with unmanned ladder pipes while directing the water away from burning metals. Approximately 2 ½ hours later, two small concentrated areas remained burning and a second explosion occurred when water contacted the burning combustible metals. This time no fire fighters were injured.
Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
Unknown building contents
Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
Use of traditional fire suppression tactics
This incident brings to light the many operational and safety issues affecting operational deployment and command and control of incident involving combustible metals. These incidents require a clear understanding of the tactical protocols required to safely manage and mitigate fire incidents.
Take the time to discuss this event with your company or condense and distribute within your battalion, division or organization.
For the Complete narrative of the incident go to CommandSafety.com, HERE
Tonight on Firefighternetcast.com; Taking it to the Streets-The New Fire Ground and the First-Due
The New Fire Ground and the First-Due
Join in tonight at 9pm ET for another special and exciting program continuing our series discussion on the Emerging Tactical Renaissance in the Fire Service.
Taking it to the StreetsTM, radio program hosted by highly regarded national instructor, author, lecturer and fire officer Christopher Naum, continues to provide provocative insights and dynamic discussions with leading national fire service leaders and guests on important issues affecting the American Fire Service with applications internationally within the tradition and brotherhood of the Fire Service.
This edition of Taking it to the StreetsTM the program will be looking at the New Fire Ground and the First-Due
Incorporating and facilitating the latest training delivery concepts and methodologies and integrating current and emerging technology, social media platforms, eMedia and internet based content management material in order to provide unparalleled fire service curricula, training and education, The Command Institute, Buildingsonfire.com and Fire Fighternetcast.com will be integrating content across a number of platforms to provide you with supportive information and training that will ultimately integrate with the direct training deliveries at the conference.
Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a special one hour program with Taking it to the Streets on FirefighterNetcast.com where we’ll be discussing developing concepts, methodologies and operational perspectives affecting today’s emerging and evolving fire ground and the new considerations for the First-Due with Christopher Naum and fire service leaders, Division Chief Ed Hadfield and Deputy Chief Jason Hoevelmann.
Join in on the live open discussion with other fire service personnel from around the country.
October 21 – 23, 2011 | St. Charles, Missouri Join Us at Our Inaugural Event!
Featuring three packed days of hands-on training, top notch education with big names and fresh faces, pre-conference workshops, social events, open discussions and more.
November 4-6, 2011 | King of Prussia, PA
Three days of top notch hands-on training, a comprehensive educational program featuring top names and fresh faces, pre-conference workshops, social events, open discussions and more.
October 21-23, 2011 | St. Charles, Missouri Bringing the Best in EMS Education to Your Region
We know budgets are tight, we know it can be tough to get approval to attend a conference out of state. The JEMS Seminar Series brings high-quality, high-impact EMS speakers right to you. Learn, Network, Share & Save!
Captain Araguz, a 30 year old, 11-year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department made Captain in 2009. He lost his life while battling a multiple alarm fire a the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas on July 3, 2010. The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office issued the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report, SFMO Case Number FY10-01 that provides a detailed examination of the incident, operations and yeilds findings and recommendations. A full version of the report is available at the Texas SFMO web site HERE.
On July 3, 2010, Wharton Volunteer Fire Department Captain Thomas Araguz III was fatally injured during firefighting operations at an egg production and processing facility. At 9:41 PM, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located at 3307 FM 442, Boling, Texas. Boling Volunteer Fire Department and the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department responded first, arriving approximately 12 minutes after dispatch. Eventually, more than 30 departments with 100 apparatus and more than 150 personnel responded. Some departments came as far as 60 miles to assist in fighting the fire.
The fire involved the egg processing building, including the storage areas holding stacked pallets of foam, plastic, and cardboard egg cartons and boxes. It was a large windowless, limited access structure with large open areas totaling over 58,000 square feet. A mixed construction, it included a two-story business office, the egg processing plant, storage areas, coolers, and shipping docks. It was primarily metal frame construction with metal siding and roofing on a concrete slab foundation with some areas using wood framing for the roof structure.
Captain Araguz responded to the scene from the Wharton Fire Station, approximately 20 miles from the fire scene, arriving to the front, south side main entrance 20 minutes after dispatch. Captain Araguz, Captain Juan Cano, and Firefighter Paul Maldonado advanced a line through the main entrance and along the south, interior wall to doors leading to a storage area at the Southeast corner.
Maldonado fed hose at the entry door as Captains Araguz and Cano advanced through the processing room. Araguz and Cano became separated from the hose line and then each other. Captain Cano found an exterior wall and began kicking and hitting the wall as his air supply ran out. Firefighters cut through the exterior metal wall at the location of the knocking and pulled him out. Several attempts were made to locate Captain Araguz including entering the building through the hole and cutting an additional hole in the exterior wall where Cano believed Araguz was located. Fire conditions eventually drove the rescuers back and defensive firefighting operations were initiated.
Captain Cano was transported to the Gulf Coast Medical Center where he was treated and released. Captain Araguz was recovered at 7:40 AM, the following morning. Initially transported by ambulance to the Wharton Funeral Home then taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office in Austin, Texas for a post-mortem examination.
Site Plan of Building Complex
Building Structure and Systems
The fire incident building was located on the property of Maxim Egg Farm, located within an unincorporated area of Wharton County. The 911 address is 580 Maxim Drive, Boling, Texas 77420.
Wharton County has no adopted fire codes, or model construction codes, and no designated Fire Marshal on staff that conducts fire safety inspections within their jurisdiction.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition, is adopted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and is the applicable standard for fire and life safety inspections in the absence of an adopted fire code within unincorporated areas of a county by an applicable authority. All references regarding evaluation of the incident building in relation to minimum life safety requirements are based on NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition.
Maxim Farm property includes 23 chicken coops known as layer barns that average 300 feet long and 50 feet wide holding between 15,000 to 25,000 chickens each. These layer barns inter-connect to a central processing building by a series of enclosed conveyor belts transporting over one million eggs daily.
The property includes integrated feed silos, water tanks, and waste management facilities. Additional areas on the property include equipment barns, shipping offices, loading docks, coolers, storage areas, and business offices.
Overall Building Description
The main processing structure was an irregularly shaped mixed construction of metal, concrete block, and wood framing on a concrete slab foundation with approximately 58,000 square feet of space. Three dry-storage rooms connected by a wide hallway lined the east side of the plant. A concrete block (CMU) wall separated the egg processing area from the East Hallway and storage rooms. Coolers were located north of the processing room with the loading docks along the west side of the structure. The loading docks were accessible from the processing room, Cooler 3, and Cooler 2. Cooler 1 was located at the north end of Dry Storage 2. A two-story building housing the business office was attached to the main processing plant at the southwest corner.
The building construction was classified as an NFPA 220, Type II-000 construction with an occupancy classification by the Life Safety Code as Industrial with sub-classification as special-purpose use. The Life Safety Code imposes no minimum construction requirements for this type of occupancy.
The predominant use of the building was to process and package fresh eggs for shipment after arriving by automated conveyor directly from a laying house adjacent to the building. The general floor plan of the building consisted of a large egg processing room, with surrounding areas used for storage of packing materials and two large drive-in coolers for holding packaged eggs prior to shipping.
Building construction consisted of a combination of steel and wood framing with a sheet metal exterior siding and roofing over a low-pitch roof on a concrete slab foundation. Structural elements within the interior of the building were exposed and unprotected with no fire-resistance rated materials applied. The load bearing structural elements consisted of steel beams, and steel pipe columns, with steel open web trusses supporting the roof structure.
Wood components were also used as part of the load bearing elements and wall framing.
Perimeter walls of the cooler compartments were constructed of concrete masonry units (CMU).
The building was not separated between other areas of use by fire-resistance rated assemblies.
Ancillary facilities located within the building used for administrative offices and other incidental spaces were constructed of wood framing with a gypsum wallboard finish.
Detailed Construction Features
The front of the structure faced to the south where the main entrance to the processing room and business offices was located approximately 4 feet above the parking lot grade level and accessed by a series of steps. The business office was a two-story wood frame construction with a vinyl exterior siding under a metal roof on a concrete slab foundation. Additional separate, single-story, wood frame structures with offices located to the west of the main business office connected by covered walkways.
The egg processing room was 141 feet along the east and west walls and approximately 100 feet along the north and south walls. The processing room received the eggs transported from the layer barns on the conveyer belt system. The room contained the processing equipment and conveyor systems where eggs were cleaned, graded, packaged and moved to large coolers to await shipment. The construction of the processing room was sheet metal panels embedded into the concrete slab foundation supported by 8-inch wide metal studs. Sheet metal panels lined the exterior and interior sides of the south and west walls with fiberglass insulation sandwiched between.
Main Processing Area
The north wall separated the processing room from Cooler 3 and consisted mainly of interlocking insulated metal panels embedded into the slab locked at the top in metal channels. Their interior surface was polyurethane laminate.
The east wall was mainly of concrete block (CMU) construction. A USDA office and a mechanics room were accessed through doors in the east wall of the processing room. The northeast corner of the processing room extended into the north end of the east hallway, forming an 18 feet by 18 feet area with wood frame construction on a concrete stem wall with fiber cement board (Hardy board) and metal panel siding. A 6-feet wide opening between the processing and dry-storage areas with a vinyl strip door allowed unrestricted access.
Along the south wall of the processing room, a walkway between the processing equipment and exterior wall led to swinging double doors at the southeast corner to enter into Dry Storage 3. Conveyors carried the eggs from the north and south layer barns through openings in the walls of the extension of the processing room. The conveyors from the north and south layer barns entered the building suspended overhead. As the conveyors approached the entrance to the main processing room, they gradually descended to 3.5 feet above floor level and were supported by metal brackets attached to the floor. Electric drive motors attached to the conveyors at several points along their lengths to power their movement.
The roof consisted of steel columns and girders with metal panel roofing attached to metal purlins supported by steel rafters. Wire mesh supported fiberglass insulation under the roof deck. The roof gable was oriented north to south.
The plant included three dry-storage rooms along the eastern side of the building connected by an east hallway. Dry Storage 1 and Dry Storage 2 were located in the northeast corner of the plant under a common sloping metal roof. The dry-storage rooms held pallets of containers including polystyrene egg crates, foam egg cartons, pulp egg cartons, and cardboard boxes.
Dry Storage 1 was approximately 123 feet long and 50 feet wide and was 4 feet below the grade of the rest of the plant. It was added to the east side of Dry Storage 2 in 2008. Dry Storage 1 was a concrete slab and 4-feet high concrete half wall topped with wood framing and metal siding. The metal roof sloped from 11 feet high above the west side to 10 feet high above the east wall. The roof attached to 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists supported by two rows of steel support columns and steel girders. The two rows of seven columns were oriented in a north-south direction.
A concrete ramp at the south end facilitated access to the East Hallway and Dry Storage 2 and the main level of the processing room. A concrete ramp at the northeast corner of Dry Storage 1 provided access to the rear loading dock. The rear dock was secured on the interior at the top of the ramp by a wood frame and metal double door with a wooden cross member and a chain and padlock. An additional wood frame and screened double door secured on the interior.
The conveyor belt from the north layer barns ran the length of the west side of Dry Storage 1 where it turned to the west, crossing Dry Storage 2 and the East Hallway into the main processing room.
Dry Storage 1 contained 29 rows of pallets, seven to eight pallets deep, of mainly Styrofoam egg crates stacked between 7 and 10 feet high, depending on their location. Corridors between the rows were maintained to provide access to the pallets with an electric forklift. Fluorescent light fixtures attached to the wood rafters in rows north to south with their conductors in PVC conduit. Skylights spaced evenly above the west side allowed for natural light. Pallets of stock material were single stacked below the locations of the light fixtures to keep clearance and prevent damage.
Dry Storage 2, located west of and 4 feet above Dry Storage 1, stored pallets of flattened cardboard box stock. The room was approximately 81 feet long and 40 feet wide. The south wall was the processing room extension and was approximately 25 feet long. The east side of the room was open to Dry Storage 1 with 4 inch x 4 inch unprotected wood studs spaced unevenly from 4 feet to 9 feet, supporting the metal roof. The west wall was CMU construction and was the exterior wall of Cooler 3. The metal roof sloped from the top of the west wall approximately 12 feet high to approximately 11 feet above the east side.
The room was accessed from the south end at the top of the ramp leading down into Dry Storage 1. Pallets of folded cardboard boxes were stacked along the entire length of the west wall extending 16 to 20 feet to the east. The rows of pallets were without spacing for corridors. One row of six fluorescent light fixtures attached to wood rafters near the north-south centerline.
The East Hallway was approximately 118 feet long and 37 feet wide running along the length of the east side of the processing room. The East Hallway connected Dry Storages 1 and 2 with Dry Storage 3 by a corridor at the south end. The East Hallway allowed access between the storage room areas and into utility rooms including the Boiler Room at the north end and a mechanics room and small utility closet. Pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the east wall in rows of three pallets each. Seven pallets of polystyrene egg crates were stored along the conveyors.
The west wall was concrete block construction (CMU) until it connected to the extension of the processing area constructed of wood frame covered by Hardy board and sheet metal. The east wall was sheet metal embedded in the concrete slab supported by 2 inch x 4 inch wood studs with Hardy board interior. The metal roof sloped from a height at 12 feet at the west wall to 10 feet high at the east wall, supported by 4 inch x 6 inch wood columns and 2 inch x 8 inch wood joists.
Two conveyors entered the south end of the east hallway from Dry Storage 3. The conveyors ran parallel for approximately 80 feet along the west wall and entered the processing room through openings in the extension at the north end of the east hallway. They were 6 feet from the west wall and gradually descended from a height of 9 feet at the south end to 3.5 feet at the north. Each conveyor was 31 inches wide and combined was approximately 7 feet wide. Two compressor machines and a pressure washer were located along the west wall near the south end.
The Boiler Room, located at the northeast corner of the East Hall, housed two propane fired boilers, a water treatment system and two vacuum pumps. It was wood frame construction with metal siding under a metal roof on a combination concrete slab and concrete pier and wood beam foundation. A small utility room with service panels was constructed of concrete block on a concrete slab under a metal roof and was also located along the west wall of the East Hallway. An approximately 10 feet wide corridor connected the East Hallway to Dry Storage 3.
Dry Storage 3 extended south from the main processing room and East Hallway to the south dock area where tractor-trailers parked to unload the pallets of supplies. Two parallel conveyors suspended 9 feet overhead from the roof extended along the length of the east wall where it passed through the south wall toward the south layer houses.
The plant’s main power conductors entered the west wall of Dry Storage 3 from load centers and transformers mounted to the slab outside approximately 15 feet south of the main processing room exterior wall. Stacks of wood pallets were stored in Dry Storage 3. Corridors wide enough for forklifts provided access to the south cargo dock area.
Fire Ground Operations and Tactics
Note: The following sequence of events was developed from radio transmissions and firefighter witness statements. Those events with known times are identified. Events without known times are approximated in the sequence of the events based on firefighter statements regarding their actions and/or observations. A detailed timeline of radio transmissions is included in the appendix.
On July 3, 2010, at 21:41:10, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office 911 received a report of a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm located on County Road 442, south of the city of Boling, Texas. The caller, immediately transferred to the Wharton Police Department Dispatch, advised there was a “big fire” in the warehouse where egg cartons were stored. Boling Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched and immediately requested aid from the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department. Wharton VFD became Command as is the usual practice for this county.
Wharton Assistant Chief Stewart (1102) was returning to the station having been out on a response to a vehicle accident assisting the Boling Volunteer Fire Department when the call came in for the fire. He responded immediately and at 21:50 reported seeing “heavy fire” coming from the roof at the northeast corner of the building as he approached the plant from the east on County Road 442. When he arrived he was eventually directed to the east side of the building (D side) to the rear loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
An employee directed him on the narrow caliche drive behind the layer barns and between the waste ponds to the loading dock. Wharton Engine 1134 followed 1102 to the east side and backed into the drive leading to the loading dock. Asst. Chief Stewart’s immediate actions included assessing the extent of the fire on the interior of the building by looking through the doors at the loading dock to Dry Storage 1. Unable to see the fire through the smoke at the doors of the loading dock, an attack was eventually accomplished by removing a metal panel from the east exterior wall of Dry Storage 1 and using one 1¾”-inch cross lay. After a few minutes, the deck gun on Engine 1134 was utilized, directing water to the roof above the seat of the fire near the south end of Dry Storage 1.
Water supply became an immediate concern and 1102 made efforts to get resources for resupply. Requests for mutual aid to provide water tankers were made to area communities. During the incident, re-supplying tankers included a gravity re-fill from the on-site water supply storage tanks and from fire hydrants in the City of Boling, 3 miles from the scene and the City of Wharton, nearly 11 miles. The City of Boling water tower was nearly emptied during the incident.
The radio recording indicates there were difficulties accessing the location of the fire as apparatus were led around the complex by multiple employees. Heavy rains during the previous week left many roadways muddy and partially covered with water, which added to problems with apparatus access. In addition, fire crews were not familiar with the layout of the facility and there are no records of pre-fire plans. Asst. Chief Stewart worked for several minutes with facility employees to gain access to the fire building before being led to the northeast loading dock.
Wharton Fire Chief Bobby Barnett (1101) arrived on scene at 21:56:14, and ordered incoming apparatus to stage until he could establish an area of operations at the front, south side of the plant (A side). Chief Barnett directed Engine 1130 to position approximately 50 feet from the front main entrance of the plant. At 22:09:16, Chief Barnett (1101) established a command post on A side and became the Incident Commander; 1101 directed radio communications for the fireground to be TAC 2 and called for mutual aid from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. Chief Barnett described the conditions on side A as smoky with no fire showing. Light winds were from the east, side D, pushing the smoke toward the area of the processing room, and the front, side A, of the building.
Maxim Egg Farm Manager David Copeland, a former Wharton VFD Chief, advised Command and firefighters that the fire was in the area of the Boiler Room and should be accessed by breaching an exterior wall in the employee break area. Chief Barnett ordered Wharton crews to the breach attempt. Captain Thomas Araguz III, Captain John Cano and Firefighter Paul Maldonado were involved with this operation. The crews working in this area were in full structural personnel protective clothing and SCBA.
At 22:10, Command ordered Engine 1130 and Tanker 1160 to set up at the front entrance using Tanker 1160 for portable dump tank operations for water re-supply.
On D side, difficulty accessing the fire from the exterior of the building was reported by Asst. Chief Stewart and the crews. Heavy doors, locked loading dock doors and steel exterior paneling, required the crews to spend extra time forcing entry.
At 22:17:23, Wharton County Chief Deputy Bill Copeland (3122), once a Wharton FD volunteer firefighter, notified Command that the fire was now through the roof over Dry Storage 1.
Chief Barnett noticed smoke conditions improving at the main plant doorway and ordered crews to advance lines into the processor room. Chief Barnett stated he assigned Captain Araguz, Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado because they were the most experienced and senior crews available.
Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) was in place at the main entry door when Captain Cano, Captain Araguz and Firefighter Maldonado entered the structure into the processing room. There are no radio transmissions to verify exact entry times.
Captain Cano stated that an employee had to assist fire crews with entry into the main plant through a door with keypad access. Captain Cano reported the door to processing was held open by a three-ring binder that he jammed under the door after entry. Cano stated there was low visibility and moderate heat overhead. Captain Cano and Captain Araguz made entry on a right-hand wall working their way around numerous obstacles. The line was not yet charged and they returned to the doorway and waited for water. Wharton Engine 1130’s driver reported in his interview that he had difficulty establishing a draft from the portable tank later determined to be a linkage failure on the priming pump. 1160 connected directly to 1130 and drafted from the folding tank.
As the crew entered into the structure through the main entry door, several plant employees began entering into the administration offices through the area of the main entry door to remove files and records. This was reported to Command at 22:23 and after several minutes Chief Barnett ordered employees to stay out of the building and requested assistance from the Sheriff’s Office to maintain scene security.
At 22:31, once the line was charged, the two captains continued into the processor on the right wall leaving Maldonado at the doorway to feed hose. Captain Cano was first with the nozzle and described making it 20 feet into the building.
Cano states in his interview that he advised Command over the radio that there was high heat and low visibility, although the transmission is not recorded. Cano also reported in his interview, he could not walk through the area and had to use a modified duck walk. Cano projected short streams of water towards the ceiling in a “penciling” motion and noted no change in heat or smoke conditions. They advanced until the heat became too great and they retreated towards the center of the processor. Cano stated that they discussed their next tactic and decided to try a left-handed advance.
At 22:33, Chief Barnett advised, “advancing hose streams in main building to try to block it.”
Captain Araguz took the nozzle and Captain Cano advanced with him holding onto Araguz’ bunker gear. The crew advanced along the south wall of the processing room toward the double doors to Dry Storage 3 and lost contact with the hose line.
The investigation found the couplings between the first and second sections of the hose lodged against a threaded floor anchor (see photo) preventing further advancement of the line. How the team lost the hose line remains uncertain.
Captain Cano stated in his interview that Captain Araguz told him to call a Mayday. Captain Cano stated that he was at first confused by the request, but after some time it became apparent they lost the hose line. Captain Cano reported calling Mayday on the radio but never received a reply. Captain Cano now believes he may have inadvertently switched channels at his previous transmission reporting interior conditions. Captain Araguz had a radio but it was too damaged to determine operability. There are no recorded transmissions from Captain Araguz.
At 22:37, Deputy Chief Copeland advised Command that the fire had breached a brick wall and was entering the main packing plant. Command responded that there was a hose team inside.
At 22:42:50, Command radioed “Command to hose team 1, Cano.” This was the first of several attempts to contact Captain Cano and Captain Araguz. At 22:47:17, Command ordered Engine 1130 to sound the evacuation horn. At 22:50:44, Command announced Mayday over the radio, stating “unlocated fireman in the building.”
Captain Cano stated in his interview that they made several large circles in an attempt to locate the fire hose.
Cano became entangled in wiring, requiring him to doff his SCBA.
After re-donning his SCBA, Captain Cano noted he lost his radio, but found a flash light. He remembered that his low air warning was sounding as he and Araguz searched for the hose. Cano stated that they made it to an exterior wall and decided to attempt to breach the wall. Working in near zero visibility,
Captain Cano reported losing contact with Captain Araguz while working on breaching the wall.
Shortly after he lost contact, Captain Cano ran out of air and removed his mask. Captain Cano continued working to breach the exterior wall until he was exhausted.
At 22:54, crews working on the exterior of the building near the employee break area reported hearing tapping on the wall in the area of the employee break room.
Crews mustered tools and began to cut additional holes through the building exterior.
After making two openings, Captain Cano was located and removed from the building.
Captain Cano reported that Captain Araguz was approximately 15 feet inside of the building ahead of him.
Firefighters made entry through the exterior hole but were unsuccessful in locating Captain Araguz. Cano was escorted to the folding water tank and got into the tank to cool down.
Rapid Intervention Crews (RIC) were established using mutual aid members from the Hungerford and El Campo Fire Departments. The first entry made was at the main entry door where Firefighter Maldonado was located. Maldonado was relieved and escorted to the ambulance for rehab. An evacuation horn sounded and the first RIC abandoned the interior search and exited the building.
A rescue entry by a second RIC was through the breached wall of Dry Storage 3. After several minutes inside, the evacuation signal sounded due to the rapidly spreading fire and deteriorating conditions. Two additional RICs entered the structure through the loading dock doors of Dry Storage 3. Chief Barnett states that there were a total of four RICs that made entry after the Mayday. After approximately 45 minutes, all rescue attempts ceased.
As the fire extended south toward Dry Storage 3, smoke conditions became so debilitating that Chief Barnett ordered all crews staged near the front of the building on side A to move back and apparatus to relocate. Command assigned Chief Hafer of the Richmond Fire Department to “A” side operations and defensive operations were established. Captain Cano and Firefighter Maldonado were transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire ground operations continued through the night. Captain Araguz was recovered at approximately
07:40 AM. Command transferred to the Richmond Fire Department Chief Hafer at approximately
07:56 AM as 1101 and the Wharton units escorted Captain Araguz from the scene. All Wharton units cleared the scene at 08:02 AM.
Captain Araguz was transported to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office performed post mortem examinations on July 4, 2010. Captain Araguz died from thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.
Findings and Recommendations
Recommendations are based upon nationally recognized consensus standards and safety practices for the fire service.
All fire department personnel should know and understand nationally recognized consensus standards, and all fire departments should create and maintain SOGs and SOPs to ensure effective, efficient, and safe firefighting operations.
There were several factors that, when combined, may have contributed to the death of Captain Araguz. It is important that we honor him by learning from the incident.
Water supply became an immediate concern.
Although there are two water storage tanks on the facility with the combined capacity of nearly 44,000 gallons, refilling operations to tankers were slow, accomplished by gravity fill through a 5-inch connection.
A fire department connection attached to the plant’s main water supply pump and plant personnel familiar with the system could have sped up the refilling process at the plant.
Most tankers were sent to hydrants in the City of Boling 3 miles away, which in turn quickly depleted the city water supply.
Other tanker refilling was accomplished at hydrants on the City of Wharton water system, as far as 15 miles away.
Fire protection systems are not required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 Edition for this classification of facility. Fire sprinkler and smoke control systems may have contained the fire to one area, preventing the spread of fire throughout the plant.
Findings and recommendations from this investigation include:
There were no lives to save in the building. An inadequate water supply, lack of fire protection systems in the structure to assist in controlling the spread of the smoke and fire, and the heavy fire near the windward side facilitated smoke and fire spread further into the interior and toward “A” side operations. Along with the size of the building, the large fuel load, and the time period from fire discovery, interior firefighters were at increased risk.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines and conduct training involving risk management and risk benefit analysis during an incident according to Incident Management principles required by NFPA 1500 and 1561.
The concept of risk management shall be utilized on the basis of the following principles:
(a) Activities that present a significant risk to the safety of personnel shall be limited to situations where there is a potential to save endangered lives
(b) Activities that are routinely employed to protect property shall be recognized as inherent risks to the safety of personnel, and actions shall be taken to reduce or avoid these risks.
(c) No risk to the safety of personnel shall be acceptable where there is no possibility to save lives or property.
(d) In situations where the risk to fire department members is excessive, activities shall be limited to defensive operations. NFPA 1500 Chapter 8, 8.3.2
NFPA 1500 ‘Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program’, 2007 ed., and NFPA 1561’Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System’, 2008 ed. Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards Manual, Chapter 435, Section 435.15
(b) The Standard operating procedure shall:
(1) Specify an adequate number of personnel to safely conduct emergency scene operations;
(2) limit operations to those that can be safely performed by personnel at the scene;
Initial crews failed to perform a 360-degree scene size-up and did not secure the utilities before operations began.
Recommendation: Fire departments should develop Standard Operating Guidelines that require crews to perform a complete scene size-up before beginning operations. A thorough size up will provide a good base for deciding tactics and operations. It provides the IC and on-scene personnel with a general understanding of fire conditions, building construction, and other special considerations such as weather, utilities, and exposures. Without a complete and accurate scene size-up, departments will have difficulty coordinating firefighting efforts.
Fireground Support Operations 1st Edition, IFSTA, Chapter 10 Fundamentals of Firefighting Skills,
NFPA/IAFC, 2004, Chapter 2
The Incident Commander failed to maintain an adequate span of control for the type of incident. Safety, personnel accountability, staging of resources, and firefighting operations require additional supervision for the scope of incident. Radio recordings and interview statements indicate the IC performing several functions including: Command, Safety, Staging, Division A Operations, Interior Operations and Scene Security.
Recommendation: Incident Commanders should maintain an appropriate span of control and assign additional personnel to the command structure as needed. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision. In ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from three to seven subordinates, with five being optimal. The type of incident, nature of the tasks, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources all influence span-of-control considerations.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency Incident Command Systems http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/ICSpopup.htm#item5 NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior fire team advanced into the building prior to the establishment of a rapid intervention crew (RIC).
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written procedures that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Final Rule, 29 CFR Section 1910.134 (g) (4) requiring at least two fire protection personnel to remain located outside the IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life or Health) atmosphere to perform rescue of the fire protection personnel inside the IDLH atmosphere. One of the outside fire protection personnel must actively monitor the status of the inside fire protection personnel and not be assigned other duties. NFPA 1500 8.8.7 At least one dedicated RIC shall be standing by with equipment to provide for the rescue of members that are performing special operations or for members that are in positions that present an immediate danger of injury in the event of equipment failure or collapse.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134 (g) (4); Texas Commission on Fire Protection Standards §435.17 – Procedures for Interior Structure Fire Fighting (2-in/2-out rule) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed. NFPA 1720 Standard on Organization and Deployment Fire Suppression Operations by Volunteer Fire Departments, 2004 ed.
The interior team and Incident Commander did not verify the correct operation of communications equipment before entering the IDLH atmosphere and subsequently did not maintain communications between the interior crew and Command. Although Chief Barnett stated he communicated with Captain Cano, there was no contact with Captain Araguz.
Recommendation: Fire Departments should develop written policies requiring the verification of the correct operations of communications equipment of each firefighter before crews enter an IDLH atmosphere. Fire Departments should also include training for their members on the operation of communications equipment in zero visibility conditions.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard, CFR 1910.134(g)(3)(ii) NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Chapter 8, 2007 ed.
The interior operating crew did not practice effective air management techniques for the size and complexity of the structure. Interviews indicate the crew expended breathing air while attempting to breach an exterior wall for approximately 10 minutes, then advanced a hose line into a 15,000 square feet room without monitoring their air supply. During interviews Captain Cano estimated his consumption limit at 15 – 20 minutes on a 45 minute SCBA.
Recommendation: Crews operating in IDLH atmospheres must monitor their air consumption rates and allot for sufficient evacuation time. Known as the point of no return, it is that time at which the remaining operation time of the SCBA is equal to the time necessary to return safely to a non-hazardous atmosphere. The three basic elements to effective air management are:
Know your point of no return (beyond 50 percent of the air supply of the team member with the lowest gauge reading).
Know how much air you have at all times.
Make a conscious decision to stay or leave when your air is down to 50 percent.
IFSTA . Essentials of Fire Fighting and Fire Department Operations, 5th ed., Chapter 5, Air Management, page 189 Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Captains Araguz and Cano became separated from their hoseline. While it is unclear as to the reason they became separated from the hose line, interviews with Captain Cano indicate that while he was finding an exterior wall and took actions to alert the exterior by banging and kicking the wall, he lost contact with Captain Araguz.
**Captain Cano credits his survival to the actions he learned from recent Mayday, Firefighter Safety training.
Recommendation: Maintaining contact with the hose line is critical. Losing contact with the hose line meant leaving the only lifeline and pathway to safety. Team integrity provides an increased chance for survival. All firefighters should become familiar with and receive training on techniques for survival and self-rescue.
United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy training course “Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday” Fundamentals of Firefighter Skills, 2nd edition, NFPA and International Association of Fire Chiefs, Chapter 17, Fire Fighter Survival.
Additional References Related to Surviving the Mayday and RIT operations from 2011 Safety Week at CommandSafety.com;
This year’s Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week focused on Surviving the Fire Ground: Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness. One of the major objectives of this year’s theme was addressing a variety of functional areas for the Mayday event. For many of you, the conditions, outcome and lessons learned from the Southwest Supermarket Fire, maydays and the Line of Duty Death of Phoenix (AZ) firefighter Bret Tarver in 2001 are as fresh today as they were ten years ago and certainly as relevant as when many of us first read the Final Report issued by the Phoenix FD.
However, to many others in the Fire Service the Bret Tarver LODD and the Southwest Supermarket fire along with the lessons learned that were identified and the research that was instituted may not have made it onto your radar screen. In this the final days of the 2011 Fire/EMS Safety week, it is very appropriate to provide some insights on this mayday event and more importantly provide you with the opportunty to learn from the past, to understand operational parameters, capabilites, fallacies, misconceptions and limitations when we talk about Mayday, RIT and FAST activities and operational deployments.
Here’s an overview of the event;
On March 14, 2001 the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department lost firefighter Brett Tarver at the Southwest Supermarket fire.
In that event, it was 5:00 in the afternoon, the grocery store was full of people and fire was extending through the building. Phoenix E14 was assigned to the interior of the structure to complete the search, get any people out, and attempt to confine the rapidly spreading fire to the rear of the structure. Shortly after completing their primary search of the building the Captain decided it was time to get out. Tarver and the other members of Engine 14 were exiting the building when Tarver and his partner got lost.
The engineer (driver) was leading the group following the attack line they had brought into the supermarket fire, followed by Tarver and his partner, with the company officer being the last person to begin the long crawl out of the smoke filled structure. At some point Tarver and his partner got off the hose line and moved deeper in the supermarket fire away from their only exit. Early on during the exit attempt through maze like conditions Tarver and his partner basically turned left instead of right. Not knowing this the company officer continued to crawl out of the building thinking his whole crew was ahead of him on the attack line. Tarver and his partner crawled deeper into the fire occupancy eventually ending up in the butcher shop area where they eventually became separated.
Based on radio reports of deteriorating conditions inside the building from E14 and other companies the Incident Commander (IC) considered a switch to a defensive strategy and started the process of pulling all crews out of the structure. During this process Tarver radioed the IC telling him that he was lost in the back of the building. The IC deployed two companies as Rapid Intervention Crews (RICs) through the front access point to no avail.
Other companies coming to their rescue through the back room area of the supermarket later rescued Tarver’s partner. After several unsuccessful rescue attempts, Tarver succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from the acrid smoke and was eventually removed from the building as a full code. Trying to remove the 260-pound firefighter was nearly impossible for rescue team members. Outside, the resuscitation efforts failed.
During the rescue efforts there were more than twelve (12) mayday’s issued by firefighters trying to make the rescue. On this tragic day, one other firefighter (attempting to rescue Tarver) was removed in respiratory arrest and was later resuscitated by fire department paramedics on the scene.
Over the next year (The Recovery), the department systematically reviewed its standard operating procedures and fireground operational activities at the strategic (command), tactical (sector) and task (company) levels of the entire organization in an attempt to prevent such a tragic event from ever happening again to the Phoenix Fire Department. One of the many significant questions that was asked was why didn’t the rapid intervention concept work? Immediately after the fire the Phoenix Fire Department reviewed its Rapid Intervention and Mayday standard operating procedures (SOPs). Based on drills, training and the data acquired through those drills, in the year following the incident the standard concept of a rapid intervention is now being challenged.
In the wake of the 2001 Southwest Supermarket Fire and LODD of FF Brett Tarver, the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department issued a comprehensive report of the incident and the lessons learned and research conducted by the FD.
Beyond 2011 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week; Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Training and Preparedness
If you have never heard about the Southwest Supermarket Fire and the Bret Tarver LODD and incident and never read the report;
take the time to do so and understand that the concepts of RIT and FAST are made up of far more elements, considerations and more importantly realities of what you think you can do versus what you may actually be able to do.
if you’ve read it in the [past], take a few minutes to review and refresh;
see where your organization, department and RIT/FAST training and capabilities are today-
what are the capabilities of your fire fighters, officers and commanders?
Take a look at the NIOSH report and the recommendations contained; how does your deparment stack up today?
After reading the reports, take a close look at your organization, your personnel and your training and your capabilities and
ask yourself if you are truly able to perform the necessary RIT/FAST operations or
do you have a ways to go to better prepare, train and ensure you’re able to undertake the job and address the fireground survival needs when a mayday is called.
did you take the time during this safety week to make some progress, identify some new insights, gaps or renewed interests and desire to enhance on your capabilities and strengths?
Are your Mayday, RIT and FAST capabilites, skills and knowledge better today in 2011 than they were in 2001?
Rapid Intervention Team: Are You Ready? Mar 1, 2007 FireEngineering.com By Robert L. Gray; HERE If you were assigned to be a member of a rapid intervention team (RIT) during your next structure fire-or had to command a fireground rescue as a chief officer-are you confident that you would be up to the task of successfully responding to a firefighter Mayday?
The following is an article piece posted by my good friend Mike Ward and posted a number of years ago from www.thewatchdesk.com written by: Mike Ward
Rapid Intervention Reality – from Phoenix
Subject: Rapid Intervention Reality Check By Michael Ward
The Phoenix Fire Department’s Deployment Committee has a sobering message to their firefighters operating in large buildings, like a 7,500 square foot warehouse: “If you extend an attack line 150′, get 40 feet off the line and then run out of air, it will take us 22 minutes to get you out of the structure.” The lesson to remember is not to get off the fire attack line. The statement is based on 200 rapid intervention drills conducted by PFD as part of their recovery process after Firefighter/paramedic Brett Tarver died in the March 14, 2001 Southwest Supermarket fire.
PFD obtained three vacant commercial buildings: a warehouse, a movie theatre and a country-western bar. The RIT drill was for the first alarm companies to respond to a report of two firefighters in trouble. One is disoriented and the other one is unconscious. The buildings were sealed from outside light and the facemasks were obscured to simulate heavy smoke conditions. The RIT teams were equipped and deployed as if this is was a working fire. The department ran through about 200 RIT drills with 1144 PFD firefighters participating. Their activities were monitored and timed. An Arizona State University statistician analyzed the data.
The results show that rapid intervention is not rapid:
Rescue crew ready state 2.50 minutes
Mayday to RIC entry 3.03 minutes
RIC contact with downed firefighter 5.82 minutes
Total time inside building for each RIC team 12.33 minutes
Total time for rescue 21 minutes
The evolutions also revealed three consistent ratios:
It takes 12 firefighters to rescue one
One in five RIC members will get into some type of trouble themselves.
A 3000-psi SCBA bottle has 18.7 minutes of air (plus or minus 30%)
The results of the RIC drills reflects the experience Phoenix had during the efforts to rescue Firefighter/paramedic Brett Tarver. There were a dozen maydays sounded during the rescue effort, and one PFD firefighter was removed from the supermarket in respiratory arrest.
The Phoenix experience is not unique. Houston Fire Chief Chris Connealy participated in a discussion about the Phoenix RIC drills during the 2003 Change in the Fire Service Symposium. On October 13, 2001, Houston Engine 2 Captain Jay Jahnke died on the fifth floor of Four Leaf Towers, a 41 story residential high-rise. During the Houston RIC operation, two heavy rescue company firefighters became disoriented, low on air and had to rescue themselves. An engine company captain and firefighter run out of air and collapsed on the fire floor. Chief Connealy said that the Houston experience is similar to Phoenix.
Phoenix is changing its approach to rapid intervention crews in three procedural ways: increase suppression units assigned to RIC, increased in command officers, and considering a two-part RIC process.
There is a scalar approach to RIC dispatch assignments in Phoenix. For a “3-1 Assignment” (three engines and one ladder), a fourth engine and an ems transport (rescue) is added to the assignment to function as the rapid intervention team. For a 1st alarm assignment, two engines, one ladder, one rescue and a battalion chief are the RIC team. A second alarm includes an additional two engines and ladder for RIC. Beyond a second alarm, the incident commander can call additional companies as needed.
The recovery process also looked at the utilization of company and command officers on the fireground. A company officer core competency is to command a fire company. A core chief officer competency is to command fire companies. It is a function of the fire department hierarchical structure, not of personality. For example, a captain filling-in as a battalion chief does a better job as a West Sector officer than she would have if she was commanding Engine 2 AND in charge of West Sector. At the sector level of the incident management system, company officers are required to wear two hats. There are too many levels of tasks. Phoenix suggests that it would be more effective to send more command officers to a fire event to function as sector and division commanders and allow the company officers to command their companies. It is a waste of talent and experience to allow command officers to stay in their fire stations while a low-frequency, high risk event like a structure fire is occurring
in the city.
A third change in rapid intervention crews is using a two-phase approach. Many of the RIC team members ran out of air during the training evolutions. The drills showed that a 3000-psi SCBA bottle was good for 13.09 to 24.31 minutes of air. The average SCBA time was 18.7 minutes. The average time from mayday to removal was 21 minutes. RIC teams were running out of air during the firefighter removal phase. In addition, it was taking a crew of 12 firefighters to remove one firefighter. Phase one of a RIC response is to send a team in to locate the firefighters in trouble. Once located, a second RIC team enters to remove the firefighter.
You are welcome to share this with everyone. Please include the following: taken from www.thewatchdesk.com written by:
Michael Ward, Fire Science Program Head, Northern Virginia Community College.
An Eight Alarm Fire Hit Camden on Saturday morning
A huge fire early this morning has engulfed a three-story warehouse in downtown Camden, two days after another massive blaze in the city. The Camden County Fire dispatch office says about 20 fire companies were fighting the eight-alarm blaze at the Howland Croft and Sons warehouse in the 400 block of Winslow Street. There have been no reports of any injuries. Firefighters took the call on the fire at 2:24 a.m. Saturday. The building takes up a large part of a block on Winslow Street. Reports are the fire was brought under control at about 6 a.m. Thursday’s 12-alarm fire leveled an abandoned tire business and most of the two surrounding city blocks, leaving about 50 people homeless.
Photo by Ted Aurig
Eight Alarm Fire in Camden Saturday morning Photo gallery, HERE
FDNY celebrated the valor of its members during Medal Day 2011, which took place at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on June 8.
“This is one of the most wonderful days of the year,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “We’re celebrating those who put themselves in harms way to protect others.”
The event honored eight fire officers, one EMS officer, one fire marshal, 27 firefighters, two paramedics, seven emergency medical technicians and four fire companies.
Members of Engine 54 and Ladder 4 received the 2011 World Trade Center Memorial Medal for their response to the would-be Times Square car bomb on May 1, 2010. Learn more
This year’s James Gordon Bennett Medal winner, the highest honor for a member of the Fire Service, was Firefighter Peter Demontreux from Ladder 132. He saved two victims from a burning brownstone in Brooklyn on Aug. 30, 2010. Learn more
James Gordon Bennett Medal winner, Firefighter Peter Demontreux L132
From the NYC.GOV FDNY Site Posting from 2010 (HERE)
Firefighters Rescue Three from Dramatic Early Morning Fire
The brownstone at 175 Putnam Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where three people were rescued by FDNY firefighters on Aug. 30.
In a series of dramatic early morning rescues Aug. 30 in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, firefighters pulled several residents from the top floors of a burning brownstone, with one firefighter walking through flames and suffering second-degree burns to help someone trapped inside.
“We walked through a room that was engulfed in fire,” said Firefighter Peter Demontreux of Ladder 132, recalling how he helped a civilian to safety. “We were on fire.”
The fire broke out shortly before 4:30 a.m. at 175 Putnam Ave. and quickly escalated to a second-alarm.
Firefighter Demontreux, who was assigned to the Outside Vent position, immediately climbed up the aerial ladder upon arrival to rescue a man hanging from the third-floor front window, who told him that there was another person still inside.
He donned his mask and went inside to begin his search, but thick black smoke made it impossible to see. He returned to the window, where Firefighter Richard Myers of Rescue 2 offered to begin breaking out windows on the third floor to increase visibility.
Demontreux went back in.
“I heard a man at the back and searched along the wall, following it to the rear, where I found the second occupant hanging out the back window trying to breathe,” Firefighter Demontreux said.
FF Richard Myers of Rescue 2, Deputy Chief Robert Strong of Division 11, FF Peter Demontreux of Ladder 132 and FF Charles Dodenhoff of Rescue 2.
Helping the man along toward the front of the building, they passed through a room now fully involved, but knew it was their only means left of escape.
“I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible,” Firefighter Demontreux said.
Outside of the building, with Firefighter Demontreux gone for several minutes as flames intensified inside, Firefighter Myers feared the worst. “I was about to give an urgent, a mayday,” he said. “All of a sudden there’s Pete, running out and he and the civilian are on fire.”
Firefighters with a charged hoseline down below quickly turned the water on Firefighter Demontreux and the victim, putting out the flames on their clothes and bodies.
“I thought Pete was dead,” Firefighter Myers said. “Incredible, just incredible job that he did.”
Members of Rescue 2 also performed heroically, using a life-saving rope to rescue a man from the third floor of the building. Firefighter Charlie Dodenhoff used the rope to pull a man out of a third floor window.
In all, four firefighters were injured in the fire, with Firefighter Demontreux suffering burns on his face and back. He was treated and released from an area hospital Monday. Three civilians also suffered critical injuries and were taken to area hospitals.
Fire marshals are still investigating the cause of the fire, but it is considered suspicious.
It’s being reported that San Francisco Fire Fighter Anthony Valerio passed away this morning as a result of injuries sustained while operating the Diamond Heights fire on Thursday June 2nd. This becomes the second line of duty death from this incident that also resulted in the LODD of Lt. Vincent Perez. Anthony “Tony” Valerio, a 53-year-old firefighter and paramedic critically injured in the Thursday blaze, died at San Francisco General Hospital at about 7:40 a.m., city officials said.
San Francisco firefighter Anthony Valerio is the second firefighter to die from Thursday’s Diamond Heights fire. According to San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Valerio had “significant damage to his respiratory system” and burns across his body after Thursday’s fire. Valerio has burns to 12 percent of his body.
WKGO TV ABC7 reports that according to San Francisco Fire Deputy Chief Mike Gardner said most of Fire Fighter Valerio’s burns were from steam and not from fire, adding that the temperature inside the structure was between 500 and 700 degrees.
San Francisco’s fire chief says this is the first time in her 21 years with the department that two firefighters have died in the same fire.
Slowly and silently, Valerio’s body was wheeled to an awaiting van; the silence finally broken by the rain and his family’s tears. The pain hung in the air outside San Francisco General Hospital – a place that became a gathering spot for the hopeful. Valerio’s family and friends had been there around the clock since Thursday. Valerio and Perez were rushed to the hospital after the two were found unresponsive inside a burning house in Diamond Heights – a sudden blast knocked them down. Perez died late Thursday. From Reports published by WKGO-TV ABC 7 ; “It is particularly difficult, you’re mourning the loss of one and then to have another one very close from the same fire is challenging,” said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
Saturday was the first time Valerio’s doctors gave details about the uphill battle the 53-year-old faced – including the fact that he was in cardiac arrest the moment he arrived at SF General.
“Between all the injuries he had from the initial blast, the smoke inhalation, the fact that he had a really bad lung injury, which was precipitated by what happened on the scene, but we try to do everything we can,” said SF General Hospital Dr. Andre Campbell.
But in the end it wasn’t enough. On this day, the firefighter’s two families, his work family at Station 26 and his immediate family – realized Valerio’s 40 hour long fight to survive was over.
The fire department and the families have agreed to have a joint funeral for both Tony Valerio and Lt. Perez on Friday at Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
Coincidentially, we posted a remembrance to the DCFD Cherry Road Townhouse Fire and Double FireFighter LODD from May, 1999 that is worth another look as it has similar connotations related to fire behavior, flashover conditions and multiple floor level construction factors during initial fire suppression operations, HERE
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