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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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;
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
More details emerged Monday about last week’s fatal Diamond Heights blaze, as fire officials said an emergency alert accidentally went off on a nearby fire engine about the same time two firefighters’ personal alarms sounded inside the burning building according to published reports.
Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53, of Engine Company 26 both died from injuries they suffered while battling a blaze at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way on Thursday morning.
While fighting the fire, one or both of Valerio and Perez’s personal alert safety system devices went off. Around the same time, a firefighter on Engine Company 20 — which had yet to arrive on the scene — had inadvertently hit the emergency button on the engine.
Memorial planned for fallen firefighters Friday: Link and Details HERE
A joint funeral for fire Lt. Vincent Perez and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio will be held at 12:30 p.m. Friday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough St. in San Francisco. A vigil for the two men will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, also at St. Mary’s.
San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 has established trust accounts at the San Francisco Fire Credit Union for the families of Perez and Valerio. Donations can be made to SFFCU, 3201 California St., San Francisco, CA 94118.
Condolence messages can be sent to Fire Station 26, 80 Digby St., San Francisco, CA 94131.
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
Dollar Store, Main Street West, Listowel, Ontario Canada
Two volunteer firefighters were killed in the line of duty in southwestern Ontario, Canada on Thursday while battling a commercial department-store fire in Listowel, Ont., which is 160 kilometres east of Toronto, Ontario
Perth OPP were called at 15:30 hours ET, to help the volunteer fire department deal with the structure fire. Published reports are indicating the fire had broken out in the roof of a Dollar Stop store, where roofers had previously been working.
A short time later, two firefighters were unaccounted for. Firefighters conducted a search of the building and found the two downed firefighters who had succumbed to injuries they suffered while fighting the fire.
No further details about the victims were available at the present time. The firefighters’ bodies were still in the building at 20:00 hours., ET, Thursday, and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office had taken over the scene. Fire fighter Line of duty deaths is not common in Canada and having a fire in which there is a double LODD is even more unheard of.
Additional published reports indicated flames all along the west side and flames were shooting out of the roof, with a series of pops, like small explosions being reported.
Four fire stations – Atwood, Listowel, Monkton and Milverton – all responded to the blaze.
The firefighters were in the process of completing a primary search within the building when the roof collapsed, the QMI Agency has learned.
Witnesses said smoke was first spotted coming from the roof of the Dollar Stop store at about 3:30 p.m.
A short time later, two firefighters from the North Perth Fire Department were reported missing inside the single-storey structure. They were later found dead, but their bodies had not been recovered Thursday night.
Killed were 30-year-old Raymond Walter of Listowel, and 56-year-old Kenneth Rea of Atwood. Rea was the deputy district chief for the Atwood station, one of three serving North Perth.
Emergency crews on the scene of a fatal fire in Listowel ON, March 17, 2011. Courtesy AM920 CKNX Listowel, Ont.,
Podcasts and Internet Broadcasts for Fire and Emergency Service Professionals: Real Issues. Real Answers. Real Firefighters.
Training & Tactics Talk Hosted by Chief Doug Cline
Training & Tactics Talk: Emerging Dynamics in the Modern Fire Environment
Joining Training and Tactics Talk host Douglas Cline as he talks with his guests from across the United States about the emerging dynamics of the modern fire service environment.
Guests this month include retired Battalion Chief Dave Dodson from Denver, CO; Lt. Rick Mosher from Merriam, KS; Christopher Naum, Chief of Training of the Command Institute; and Assistant Chief Deron Wilson of Johns Creek, GA.
The group examines several dimensions of the modern fire service as it relates to tomorrow’s fire service. The explore the art of reading smoke, the new rules of tactical combat fire engagement, multi-dimensional aspects of training and how to develop the true understanding of situational awareness.
We invite you to grab a cup of coffee or a cold drink, pull up a chair or take a seat on the tailboard and enjoy the program. Sit back, relax and let’s talk Training and Tactics.
Based on survey data reported by fire departments, the NFPA estimates that 78,150 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2009.
This is a decrease of 1.9 percent from the year before. In recent years, the number of firefighter injuries has been considerably lower than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is due in part to additional survey questions about exposures that allow us to place them in their own categories. Previously, some of these exposures might have been included in total injuries under other categories.
In 2009, NFPA estimates that there were 23,000 exposures to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes. This amounts to 22.5 exposures per 1,000 hazardous condition runs.
An estimated 15,150 injuries, or 19.4 percent of all firefighter injuries, resulted in time lost from work in 2009.
These are some of the key findings in the U.S. Firefighter Injuries in 2009 report. Each year, using data collected during our annual Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience, NFPA studies firefighter injuries to provide national statistics on their frequency, extent, and characteristics.
This year’s firefighter injury report includes an estimate of the total number of firefighter injuries in 2009, estimates of the number of injuries by type of duty, and an estimate of the number of exposures to infectious diseases.
It also covers trends in firefighter injuries and rates, fireground injuries by cause, fire department vehicle accidents and resulting firefighter injuries, the average number of fires and fireground injuries per department by population of community protected, and descriptions of selected incidents that illustrate firefighter safety problems.
Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury. A better understanding of how these fatalities, non-fatal injuries, and illnesses occur can help identify corrective actions that could help minimize the inherent risks.
Injuries by type of duty Type of duty is divided into five categories:
responding to, or returning from, an incident, including fires and non fire emergencies;
participating in fireground operations, including structure fires, vehicle fires, and brush fires, from the moment of arrival at the scene to departure time, including setup, extinguishment, and overhaul;
operating at non fire emergencies, including rescue calls, hazardous materials calls such as spills, and natural disasters;
participating in other on-duty activities such as inspection or maintenance.
Not surprisingly, results by type of duty indicate that the largest share of injuries occurs during fireground operations.
In 2009, 32,205, or 41.2 percent, of all firefighter injuries occurred during fireground operations. That number is the lowest recorded during the 1981-to-2009 period and represents a 53.3 percent drop in fireground operations injuries since 1981, which saw a high of 67,500 over that same period.
The number of fires also declined steadily during that period, for an overall decrease of 52.3 percent. The rate of injuries per 1000 fires has not shown any consistent trend up or down for the period. These results suggest that even though the number of fires and fireground injuries declined similarly during the period, the injury rate did not, and when there is a fire, the fireground injury rate risk has not changed much for the period.
Overall for the 1981-to-2009 period, the number of injuries at non fire emergencies increased from 9,600 in 1981 to 15,320 in 2009, for an overall increase of 66 percent.
For the same period, the number of non fire emergencies increased a substantial 220 percent, due in large part to an increase in the number of medical aid incidents.
The injury rate per 1,000 non fire emergencies declined during the period, from 1.24 in 1981 to 0.62 in 2009, because the number of non fire emergencies increased at a higher rate than did the number of injuries at non fire emergencies.
Nature and cause of fireground injuries Estimates of 2009 firefighter injuries by nature of injury and type of duty indicate that the major types of injuries that occur during fireground operations are
strains and sprains, which were responsible for 48.2 percent;
wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises, responsible for 13.2 percent; smoke or gas inhalation, responsible for 6.2 percent;
burns, 7.1 percent; and
thermal stress, responsible for 5.8 percent.
Results were fairly consistent during all non fireground activities, with strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounting for 58.9 percent of all non fireground injuries, and wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises accounting for 16.2 percent. “Cause” here refers to the initial circumstance leading to the fireground injury.
The leading causes of fireground injuries were
overexertion and strains, which were responsible for 25.2 percent, and
falls, jumps, slips, which were responsible for 22.7 percent.
Other major causes were contact with object, responsible for 11.4 percent, and exposure to fire products, responsible for 12.9 percent.
Fireground injuries per department by population and region The NFPA examined the average number of fires and fireground injuries per department by population of community protected in 2009.
These tabulations show that the number of fires a fire department responds to is directly related to the size of the population protected and that the number of fireground injuries incurred by a department is directly related to its exposure to fire—that is, the number of fires the department attends.
The second point is clearly demonstrated when we examine the range of the statistic: they run from an average high of 83.9 fireground injuries for departments that protect communities of 500,000 to 999,999 to a low of 0.2 for departments that protect communities of less than 2,500.
The overall range of rates varied from a high of 3.3 for departments that protect communities 250,000 to 499,999 to a low of 1.3 for departments that protect communities of 5,000 to 9,999.
Thus, the wide range noted in average fireground injuries by the size of the population protected narrows when relative fire experience is taken into account.
The overall injury rate for departments protecting communities with a population of 50,000 or more was 2.7 injuries per 100 fires, or 40 percent higher than the injury rate for departments protecting communities with populations under 50,000.
The NFPA also examined the risk of fireground injury per 100 firefighters by size of community protected. Larger departments generally had the highest rates, with departments protecting communities of 250,000 to 499,999 having the highest rate of 7.8 injuries per 100 firefighters. As community size decreases, the rate drops steadily to a low of 0.8 for departments protecting fewer than 2,500 people. That is a more-than-nine-to-one difference in risk of injury between communities of 250,000 to 499,999 and the smallest communities of less than 2,500.
An explanation for this difference is that, although a department protecting a community with a population of 250,000 to 499,999 has, on average, more than 24 times as many firefighters as a department protecting a population of less than 2,500, the larger department attends more than 95 times as many fires and, as a result, incurs considerably more fireground injuries.
An evaluation by region of the country shows that the Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires for most community sizes where all departments reported sufficient data.
FIREFIGHTER INJURIES BY THE NUMBERS – 2009
78,150 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2009, a decrease of 1.9 percent from the year before.
32,205, or 41.2 percent, of all firefighter injuries occurred during fireground operations.
An estimated 15,455 occurred at non fire emergencies, while 17,590 occurred during other on-duty activities.
The Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires than other regions of the United States.
The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were;
strains, sprains, and muscular pain, responsible for 48.2 percent;
wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises, responsible for 13.2 percent;
smoke or gas inhalation, responsible for 6.2 percent.
Strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 58.9 percent of all non fireground firefighter injuries.
The leading causes of fireground injuries were;
overexertion and strains, responsible for 25.2 percent, and
falls, slips, and jumps, responsible for 22.7 percent.
This posting is a summary from the NFPA; Refer to the Full Article Posting on the NFPA web Site HERE
The NIST Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiements was issued this morning. A copy of the report is at CommandSafety.com HERE and is also available for download at the NIST, HERE
Both the increasing demands on the fire service – such as the growing number of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responses, challenges from natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, and acts of terrorism—and previous research point to the need for scientifically based studies of the effect of different crew sizes and firefighter arrival times on the effectiveness of the fire service to protect lives and property.
To meet this need, a research partnership of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was formed to conduct a multiphase study of the deployment of resources as it affects firefighter and occupant safety. Starting in FY 2005, funding was provided through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Grant Program Directorate for Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program—Fire Prevention and Safety Grants. In addition to the low-hazard residential fireground experiments described in this report, the multiple phases of the overall research effort include development of a conceptual model for community risk assessment and deployment of resources, implementation of a general sizable department incident survey, and delivery of a software tool to quantify the effects of deployment decisions on resultant firefighter and civilian injuries and on property losses.
The first phase of the project was an extensive survey of more than 400 career and combination (both career and volunteer) fire departments in the United States with the objective of optimizing a fire service leader’s capability to deploy resources to prevent or mitigate adverse events that occur in risk- and hazard-filled environments. The results of this survey are not documented in this report, which is limited to the experimental phase of the project. The survey results will constitute significant input into the development of a future software tool to quantify the effects of community risks and associated deployment decisions on resultant firefighter and civilian injuries and property losses.
The following research questions guided the experimental design of the low-hazard residential fireground experiments documented in this report:
How do crew size and stagger affect overall start-to-completion response timing?
How do crew size and stagger affect the timings of task initiation, task duration, and task completion for each of the 22 critical fireground tasks?
How does crew size affect elapsed times to achieve three critical events that are known to change fire behavior or tenability within the structure:
Entry into structure?
Water on fire?
Ventilation through windows (three upstairs and one back downstairs window and the burn room window),
How does the elapsed time to achieve the national standard of assembling 15 firefighters at the scene vary between crew sizes of four and five? In order to address the primary research questions, the research was divided into four distinct, yet interconnected parts:
Part 1—Laboratory experiments to design appropriate fuel load
Part 2—Experiments to measure the time for various crew sizes and apparatus stagger (interval between arrival of various apparatus) to accomplish key tasks in rescuing occupants, extinguishing a fire, and protecting property
Part 3—Additional experiments with enhanced fuel load that prohibited firefighter entry into the burn prop – a building constructed for the fire experiments
Part 4—Fire modeling to correlate time-to-task completion by crew size and stagger to the increase in toxicity of the atmosphere in the burn prop for a range of fire growth rates. The experiments were conducted in a burn prop designed to simulate a low-hazard1 fire in a residential structure described as typical in NFPA 1710® Organization and Deployment of Fire
Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and SpecialOperations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. NFPA 1710 is the consensus standard for career firefighter deployment, including requirements for fire department arrival time, staffing levels, and fireground responsibilities. Limitations of the study include firefighters’ advance knowledge of the burn prop, invariable number of apparatus, and lack of experiments in elevated outdoor temperatures or at night. Further, the applicability of the conclusions from this report to commercial structure fires, high rise fires, outside fires, terrorism/natural disaster response, HAZMAT or other technical responses has not been assessed and should not be extrapolated from this report.
Of the 22 fireground tasks measured during the experiments, results indicated that the following factors had the most significant impact on the success of fire fighting operations.
All differential outcomes described below are statistically significant at the 95 % confidence level or better.
Overall Scene Time:
The four-person crews operating on a low-hazard structure fire completed all the tasks on the fireground (on average) seven minutes faster—nearly 30 %—than the two-person crews.
The four-person crews completed the same number of fireground tasks (on average) 5.1 minutes faster—nearly 25 %—than the three-person crews.
On the low-hazard residential structure fire, adding a fifth person to the crews did not decrease overall fireground task times.
However, it should be noted that the benefit of five-person crews has been documented in other evaluations to be significant for medium- and high-hazard structures, particularly in urban settings, and is recognized in industry standards.
Time to Water on Fire:
There was a 10% difference in the “water on fire” time between the two- and three-person crews.
There was an additional 6% difference in the “water on fire” time between the three- and four-person crews. (i.e., four-person crews put water on the fire 16% faster than two person crews). There was an additional 6% difference in the “water on fire” time between the four- and five-person crews (i.e. five-person crews put water on the fire 22% faster than two-person crews).
Ground Ladders and Ventilation:
The four-person crews operating on a low-hazard structure fire completed laddering and ventilation (for life safety and rescue) 30 % faster than the two-person crews and 25 % faster than the three-person crews.
The three-person crews started and completed a primary search and rescue 25 % faster than the two-person crews.
The four- and five-person crews started and completed a primary search 6 % faster than the three-person crews and 30 % faster than the two-person crew.
A 10 % difference was equivalent to just over one minute.
Hose Stretch Time:
In comparing four-and five-person crews to two-and three-person crews collectively, the time difference to stretch a line was 76 seconds.
In conducting more specific analysis comparing all crew sizes to the two-person crews the differences are more distinct.
Two-person crews took 57 seconds longer than three-person crews to stretch a line.
Two-person crews took 87 seconds longer than four-person crews to complete the same tasks.
Finally, the most notable comparison was between two-person crews and five-person crews—more than 2 minutes (122 seconds) difference in task completion time.
Industry Standard Achieved:
As defined by NFPA 1710, the “industry standard achieved” time started from the first engine arrival at the hydrant and ended when 15 firefighters were assembled on scene.
An effective response force was assembled by the five-person crews three minutes faster than the four-person crews.
Based on the study protocols, modeled after a typical fire department apparatus deployment strategy, the total number of firefighters on scene in the two- and three-person crew scenarios never equaled 15 and therefore the two- and three-person crews were unable to assemble enough personnel to meet this standard.
Three different “standard” fires were simulated using the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) model. Characterized in the Handbook of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers as slow-,medium-, and fast-growth rate4, the fires grew exponentially with time.
The rescue scenario was based on a non-ambulatory occupant in an upstairs bedroom with the bedroom door open. Independent of fire size, there was a significant difference between the toxicity, expressed as fractional effective dose (FED), for occupants at the time of rescue depending on arrival times for all crew sizes. Occupants rescued by early-arriving crews had less exposure to combustion products than occupants rescued by late-arriving crews.
The fire modeling showed clearly that two-person crews cannot complete essential fireground tasks in time to rescue occupants without subjecting them to an increasingly toxic atmosphere. For a slow-growth rate fire with two-person crews, the FED was approaching the level at which sensitive populations, such as children and the elderly are threatened.
For a medium-growth rate fire with two-person crews, the FED was far above that threshold and approached the level affecting the general population.
For a fast-growth rate fire with two-person crews, the FED was well above the median level at which 50%of the general population would be incapacitated. Larger crews responding to slow-growth rate fires can rescue most occupants prior to incapacitation along with early-arriving larger crews responding to medium-growth rate fires.
The result for late-arriving (two minutes later than early-arriving) larger crews may result in a threat to sensitive populations for medium-growth rate fires.
Statistical averages should not, however, mask the fact that there is no FED level so low that every occupant in every situation is safe.
More than 60 full-scale fire experiments were conducted to determine the impact of crew size, first-due engine arrival time, and subsequent apparatus arrival times on firefighter safety and effectiveness at a low-hazard residential structure fire.
This report quantifies the effects of changes to staffing and arrival times for residential firefighting operations. While resource deployment is addressed in the context of a single structure type and risk level, it is recognized that public policy decisions regarding the cost-benefit of specific deployment decisions are a function of many other factors including geography, local risks and hazards, available resources, as well as community expectations.
This report does not specifically address these other factors. The results of these field experiments contribute significant knowledge to the fire service industry.
First, the results provide a quantitative basis for the effectiveness of four-person crews for low-hazard response in NFPA 1710.
The results also provide valid measures of total effective response force assembly on scene for fireground operations, as well as the expected performance time-to-critical-task measures for low-hazard structure fires.
Additionally, the results provide tenability measures associated with a range of modeled fires.Future research should extend the findings of this report in order to quantify the effects of crew size and apparatus arrival times for moderate- and high-hazard events, such as fires in high-rise buildings, commercial properties, certain factories, or warehouse facilities, responses to large-scale non-fire incidents, or technical rescue operations.
Addition project information and insights, Go to CommandSafety.com HEREand HERE
Dynamic Risk Assessment is commonly used to describe a process of risk assessment being carried out in a changing or evolving environment, where what is being assessed is developing as the process itself is being undertaken.
This is further problematical for the Incident Commander when confronted with competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission critical or essential information and data has been obtained. The dynamic management of risk is all about effective, informed and decisive decision making during all phases of an incident.
Situation Awareness, [SA], is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic situations and incidents.
Both the 2006 and 2007 Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System Annual Reports identified a lack of situational awareness as the highest contributing factor to near misses reported. Situation Awareness (SA) involves being aware of what is happening around you at an incident to understand how information, events, and your own actions will impact operational goals and incident objectives, both now and in the near future. Lacking SA or having inadequate SA has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error (Hartel, Smith, & Prince, 1991) (Nullmeyer, Stella, Montijo, & Harden, 2005). Situation Awareness becomes especially important in work related domains where the information flow can be quite high and poor decisions can lead to serious consequences.
To the Incident commander, Fire Officer or firefighter, knowing what’s going on around you, and understanding the consequences is mission critical to incident stabilization and mitigation and profoundly crucial in terms of personnel safety. The integration of Situational Awareness and Dynamic Risk Assessment is a mission critical element in strategic incident command management and company level tactical operations as we go forward into the next decade.
Traditional incident scene size-up is antiquated and no longer appropriate or applicable to modern fire service operations.Situational awareness is a combination of attitudes, previously learned knowledge and new information gained from the incident scene and environment that enables the strategic commanders, decision-makers and tactical companies to gather the information they need to make effective decisions that will keep their firefighters and resources out of harm’s way, reducing the likelihood of adverse or detrimental effects.
According to a 1998 published TriData study report, “Situational Awareness is one of the most difficult skills to master and is a weakness in the fire community. The report goes on to state that “The culture must change so that [personnel] are observing, thinking, and discussing the situation constantly.” It’s all about implementing effective human performance tools; perceptions versus reality, expectations versus realization, comprehension and forecasting, informed decision-making and calculated and formulated risk.
It’s a whole lot more than just “Size-Up”. What do you think?
We seem to do a lot of things at times out of common practice and repetition, you know; “We’ve always done it that way….” syndrome. There’s a resonating theme that is making its way around the fire service dealing with going to a defensive tactical posture at vacant or unoccupied structure fires.
This command posture leads to limiting interior operating engagement, while promoting a high degree of risk management.With that being said, there are also plenty of opinions on these types of policies as such, since this type of tactical effort may be contrary to the local “culture and traditions” of the responding agencies and may be a hard pill to swallow, since we’re in the job of “ fighting ALL fires..” Please refresh your memories on a past post on Tactical Entertainment HERE and HERE
Here are some basic definitions to keep us all on the same playing field;
Vacant; refers to a building that is not currently in use, but which could be used in the future. The term “vacant” could apply to a property that is for sale or rent, undergoing renovations, or empty of contents in the period between the departure of one tenant and the arrival of another tenant. A vacant building has inherent property value, even though it does not contain valuable contents or human occupants.
Unoccupied; generally refers to a building that is not occupied by any persons at the time an incident occurs. An unoccupied building could be used by a business that is temporarily closed (i.e. overnight or for a weekend). The term unoccupied could also apply to a building that is routinely or periodically occupied; however the occupants are not present at the time an incident occurs. A residential structure could be temporarily unoccupied because the residents are at work or on vacation. A building that is temporarily unoccupied has inherent property value as well as valuable contents.
The question today is this. As a responding company, you arrive at the scene of a vacant or unoccupied structure. The building’s construction features and systems have inherent risk associated with the occupancy, (as is the case with nearly all of our structures and occupancies).
Your company determines that you’re going to go defensive, even though you probably could make a reasonably safe entry and engage in interior structural fire suppression.
Would there be any repercussions in your station, battalion/district/community or organization if you took this tactic? What are YOUR personal thoughts on this form of risk management?
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