A fire in a three story multiple family apartment building injured four City of Chicago (IL) firefighters when an interior stairway collapsed during firefighting operations.
The building was constructed in 1927 and consisted of 5456 square feet of space with 3-5 apartment units. Built of masonry wall construction with a wood floor joist system, the fire was reported at 8:43 a.m., in the Type III classified occupancy.
Street View Pre-Fire
The fire began as a basement fire that travelled up two floors, eventually compromising an upper stairway which resulted in compromise and collapsed injuring four Chicago firefighters.
The inherent characteristics of the building and the manner of fire travel and impingement are apparent contributors to the event.
Aerial- Alpha; Goggle Maps
CFD Fireground Operations: Photo Tim Olk
The four firefighters sustained injures during operations when the internal stairwell connecting the second and third floors gave way.
The mayday was transmitted, and a 211 Plan 1 at approximately 09:00 hrs., seventeen minutes into the operation according to published reports issued by Deputy District Chief Lynda Turner. Following the mayday and firefighter removals, defensive operations were initiated.
Two of the firefighters sustained smoke inhalation and two firefighters minor injuries, according to Fire Department officials.
The Predictability of Building Performance must take into consideration that in the context of today’s fire ground, buildings and fire dynamics, small changes on initial compartment or structure conditions may often produce and result in large-scale or magnitude changes that affect the long term outcome of the incident.
We have assumed that the routiness or successes of past operations and incident responses equates with predictability and diminished risk to our firefighting personnel.
Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past construction systems, occupancies and building types; therefore the risk assessment and size-up process, and resulting strategies and tactics must adapt to address these evolving rules of combat structural fire engagement that challenge anecdotal practices and methodologies.
Today’s evolving fireground demands greater adaptive insights and management with an amplified understanding of buildings, occupancy risk profiling (ORP) and building anatomy by all operating companies on the fireground; demanding greater skill sets and knowledge of building construction, architecture, engineering, fire dynamics and fire suppression methodologies.
The equation for success rests directly on Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.
Don’t be complacent based on alarm type, building or occupancy type…expect fire, be prepared and understand the predictability of building performance. It should not be a surprise upon arrival of the first-due.
Some Training Aide Links from past Ten Minutes in the Streets
Ten Minutesin the Street A Buildingsonfire.com SeriesExecutive Producer: Christopher Naum, SFPE Ten Minutes in the Street; bringing you insightful and provoking street scenarios for the discriminating and perspective Firefighter, Company Officer and Commander; where you make the call. You don’t have to have any special rank to participate in this interactive forum, just the desire to learn and expand you knowledge, skills and abilities in order to better yourself, create new insights, while sharing your experience and perspectives to help you and others in the street in making the right call; so everyone has the opportunity of going home. Access the Series on Buildingsonfire.com and TheCompanyOfficer.com Don’t forget to access CommandSafety.com and TheCompanyOfficer.com . Buildingsonfire is also on Facebook.
Ten Minutes in the Street; Stretchin’ the line on the First-Due, HERE
Ten Minutes in the Street; “But it’s only a Garage..!”,HERE
Ten Minutes in the Street: “I Hear Ya Knockin’, But Nobody’s Home”
Fire in Syracuse: Four firefighters LODD: The 701 University Avenue Fire April 9, 1978
April 9th marks the 35th anniversary of the 701 University Ave. fire that claimed the lives of four Syracuse (NY) firefighters in 1978 while conducting search & rescue and suppression operations at an apartment building on the Syracuse University Campus, in Syracuse, New York.
The fire began when one of the tenants lit a candle in a styrofoam wig stand and left it unattended. At 00:46 hours on Sunday April 9, 1978, an alarm of fire was transmitted for a reported building fire at 701 University Avenue on the campus of Syracuse University.
The Victorian style house was a three story building constructed of wood balloon framing and was built circa 1898. The house had been converted into ten (10) apartments that were occupied by SU students. The gross area of each of the three floors was approx. 1,750 sq. ft., with a predominate rectangular footprint shape measuring 69 ft. x 35 ft. The third floor apartments only had access via a stairway in the rear, down a long narrow corridor that measured only 33 inches wide.
Post Fire View of Building from Bravo Side. Photo CJ Naum, 1978
The building had inherent vertical and horizontal concealed spaces indicative of balloon frame style construction along with additional concealed spaces in the third floor ceiling area. A partial automatic sprinkler system had been installed in the building in order to comply with a 1952 State of New York law. This system provided protection to the basement, means of egress, a storage area and a portion of the concealed space above the third floor.
The fire originated in a second floor apartment, and then spread into the combustible concealed space above the third floor ceiling. Approximately sixteen minutes into fireground operations the first indications of firefighting personnel being in distress were received. The first call to the Alarm center was made at 0045:17 hrs., with the first-due engine arriving at 0048:05 and first water applied at 0051 (est).
The four SFD fire fighters, Frank Porpiglio Jr., Stanley Duda, Michael Petragnani, and Robert Schuler, who were assigned to the Squad and Rescue Companies, entered the house to conduct a primary search of the premises for SU students thought to be trapped in the house.
While operating on the third floor inside, a scalding steam caused by triggered sprinklers prevented the four firefighters from escaping, and they eventually depleted their air supply and suffocated to death. The firefighters were operating with full PPE that was complaint at that time ( 1978) and were utilizing state-of-the art SCBA in the form of the new 4.5 SCBA systems. All the tenants had escaped safely before the fire fighters had entered the house. The fire was subsequently investigated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) at the request of the City of Syracuse and NFPA Report No. LS-3 was published.
Syracuse Post Standard Front Page April 10, 1978
Killed in the Line of Duty on April 9th, 1978:
Syracuse (NY) Fire Department
FF Michael Petragnani, Age 27. ~ Rescue Company – appointed 8/20/1973
FF Frank Porpiglio Jr., Age 24. ~ Squad Company – appointed 8/20/1973
FF Robert Shuler, Age 31. ~ Squad Company – appointed 1/24/1973
FF Stanley Duda, Age 34. ~ Squad Company – appointed 1/24/1973
Remembrance, Honor, Courage and Sacrifice
Post Fire View, East Adams Street and University Ave. Photo: CJ Naum, 1978
Martin J. Whitman School of Management stands today at the corner, Photo CJ Naum, 2013
Memorial Plaque placed in 2005 in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management located on the site of 1978 fire. Photo: CJ NAum, 2013
Remembering the Sacrafice: Capt. Broxterman and FF Schira
On Friday, April 4, 2008 at 06:13:02 hours, what began as a routine response for Colerain Township Fire and EMS Engine 102 to investigate a fire alarm activation at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane, Colerain Township, Ohio resulted in the deaths of Colerain Township Captain Robin Broxterman and Firefighter Brian Schira.
Upon their arrival at the scene of the two-story wood framed, residential building working fire conditions existed in the basement. The initial attack team consisted of Broxterman, Schira, and one other firefighter. The team advanced a 1¾-inch attack hose line through the interior of the building for fire control.
Even though, they were provided with some of the most technologically advanced protective clothing for structural firefighting and self-contained breathing apparatus, it appeared that Broxterman and Schira were overwhelmed by severe fire conditions in the basement.
During their attempt to evacuate the building, the main-level family room flooring system in which the two were traveling on collapsed into the basement trapping the firefighters. Eleven minutes elapsed from time of arrival to the catastrophic chain of events.
This is one of those distinctive reports that has influential and critical operational, training and preparedness elements embedded throughout the report.
It’s apparent there continues to be common threads shared by this event from 2008 and other events and incidents in the past five years where a single of multiple firefighters have lost their lives due to similarities in the apparent and common cause deficiencies and short comings identified.
All company and command officers should read and comprehend the lessons learned. Then, take these new found insights and see what the gaps are at the personal level (yours or those you supervise) as well as the shift, group, station, battalion, division or department as a whole.
If there are gaps, then identify a way to implement timely changes as necessary so there are No History Repeating (HRE) events.
The importance of Reading the Building, taking the time to complete the three sixty and being combat ready and “expecting fire”.
Remember their sacrifice, so we can learn.
Past Post on CommandSafety.com with Report Narrative and Incident DetailsHERE
The following factors were believed to have directly contributed to the deaths of Captain Broxterman and Firefighter Schira:
A delayed arrival at the incident scene that allowed the fire to progress significantly;
A failure to adhere to fundamental firefighting practices; and
A failure to abide by fundamental firefighter self-rescue and survival concepts
Although the aforementioned factors were believed to have directly contributed to their deaths, they might have been prevented if:
Some personnel had not been complacent or apathetic in their initial approach to this incident;
Some personnel were in a proper state of mind that made them more observant of their surroundings and indicators;
The initial responding units were provided with all pertinent information in a
timely manner relative to the incident;
Personnel assigned to Engine 102 possessed a comprehensive knowledge of their first-due response area;
A 360-degree size-up of the building accompanied by a risk – benefit analysis
was conducted by the company officer prior to initiating interior fire suppression operations;
Comprehensive standard operating guidelines specifically related to structural
firefighting existed within the department;
The communications system users (on-scene firefighters and those monitoring the incident) weren’t all vying for limited radio air time;
The communications equipment and accessories utilized were more appropriate for the firefighting environment;
Certain tactical-level decisions and actions were based on the specific conditions;
Personnel had initiated fundamental measures to engage in if they were to become disoriented or trapped inside a burning building; and
Issued personal protective equipment was utilized in the correct manner.
Colerain Township Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Web Site HERE
Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths April, 2010 Full Report HERE
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2008-09| CDC/NIOSH July, 2009, Report HERE
Light Weight construction has given way to Engineered Structural Systems (ESS) which in today’s evolving fireground, have an even more extensive array of performance, operational and integrity issues that affect a building’s performance under fire conditions.To unequivocally state that nothing has changed in buildings, occupancies, fire flow delivery rates and demands for increased proficiencies of our firefighters, company and command officers is absurd, ignorant and dangerous.
“It’s a lot more than just Stretching the Line…and going in….”
Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety…so we can do our job—and that’s firefighting .Another classic illustration by Paul Combs.
Taking it the Streets: Reading the Building
Here’s a simple view from the Alpha street side. I’ll give you the options as to what you’re arrive on or as…Reading the Building requires numerous layers of knowledge and skill based attributes to develop the perspective to “read your buildings” differently.
Reading the Building: Occupancy Type and Occupancy Risk?
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.
Let’s identify the building type, age, key features based on its profile, inherent characteristics, projected performance, roof system, perimeter walls, hazards, risks..etc. What is the Occupancy Type and Occupancy Risk?
There is a wealth of information you can talk about-IF you know what to look for. Start the dialog. I’ll post interior views in 48 hours.
I’ve cross posted to allow for some robust discussions. Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook.
Can you Read this building correctly? Or will your view have an adverse affect on operations if you misjudged or just didn’t know or care…just because ” you wanted to just stretch in and do the job-right?”
New for 2013: Reading the Building: Predictive Profiling for the Modern Fireground. An engaging and interactive Training Seminar addressing the Challenges of Today’s Evolving Fireground.
Nothing is ever routine;…… pause to reflect and remember the demands of the job and the inherent risks and the sacrifices made each and every day in this noble profession of the fire service.
Another beloved brother firefighter’s sacrifice, protecting the citizens of his great city.
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. The second firefighter injured was reported in good condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, according to a department spokeswoman.
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.
Companies were called to the 2-1/2-story wood frame house at 17:15 hours on Friday evening. During initial fire suppression operations, a mayday for a trapped firefighter was communicated around 17:30 hours. Immediate RIT and rescue deployments brought the Captain and the other firefighter out of the structure.
Research identifies the residential occupancy building as being built in 1896 (age 116 years) and constructed of a common balloon framing system (type V wood) with a wood gable roofing system. Published photographs suggests that both original wood sheathing and shinges were present with some new outer sheathing materials being added and renovated at some point with some OSB type sheathing installed with rigid insulation boards and an outer vinyl siding system. Records indicate the house was approximately 2000 square feet in size and measured approximately 20 ft. x 60 ft. County documents indicated the roofing system was an asphalt shinge system on a wood plank deck. Post event photopraphs depict the typical framing system components, wall and roof system and collapsed materials.
The firefighters may have been caught in a flashover within the attic compartment according to early reports according to reports from department spokesman Larry Langford. “This fire is under investigation, and our main concern right now is the family,” said Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, Santiago was joined at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Johnson died in the emergency room, by officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Captain Johnson was the first Chicago firefighter killed fighting a fire since two firefighters, FF Edward Stringer and FF Corey Ankum died battling a blaze at an abandoned South Shore laundry in December 2010. (see previous CommandSafety.com coverage HERE and HERE)
Published reports poignantly stated the following;
“On behalf of the people of the City of Chicago, I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbert Johnson, who tragically paid the ultimate sacrifice while battling a blaze early this evening,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement. “As we mourn Captain Johnson, we are all reminded of the dangerous job and selfless work of our brave firefighters. Being a firefighter is not simply a job, but a call to serve the public and greater good. In his 32 years protecting Chicago, Captain Johnson certainly exemplified the best traits in firefighters everywhere.”
Chicago ABC 7 News
Division A Streetside Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Division A, Street View Typical 2.5 story Wood Frame Residential – Google Street Maps.
“On behalf of the people of the City of Chicago, I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbert Johnson, who tragically paid the ultimate sacrifice while battling a blaze early this evening,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement.
“As we mourn Captain Johnson, we are all reminded of the dangerous job and selfless work of our brave firefighters. Being a firefighter is not simply a job, but a call to serve the public and greater good. ”
“In his 32 years protecting Chicago, Captain Johnson certainly exemplified the best traits in firefighters everywhere.”
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
Construction Insights for Typical Gabled Roof Attic with enclosed knee wall voids (typical examples)Occupied or Storage Attic Space Enclosure
Common attic spaces in buildings constructed of balloon framing systems may have the presence of knee wall voids or may have open ridge to eave
Knee wall spaces may be open to the compartment or may be enclosed and used for storage resulting in significant concentrated fire load. Inherent travel paths for fire due to non-fire stopped voids at the wall/eave interface results in concentrated fire impingement and degradation that can lead to isolated or catastrophic system failure and assembly collapse.
Age deterioration over many decades will commonly affect the structural integrity of the collar beams to maintain the structural stability of the roofing rafter system in the attic space. Renovations and alterations may also create operational risk hazards for conducting operations within fire induced attic compartments due to the absence of collar beams that further create unstable structural conditions to flame or heat affected roof components and systems.
Typical Enclosed Attic Voids and Kneewalls
Common Rafter Roof Framing Details- Buildingsonfire.com
Common Rafter Roof Framing Details- Buildingsonfire.com
Common Wood Gable Rafter Framing System- Buildingsonfire.com
Typcial Balloon Framing System with Gable Rafter Roof Framing- Buildingsonfire.com
Don’t neglect to be observant of construction features in contemporary construction such as this attic in a modular prefabricated residential house. Photo by CJ Naum
Today’s evolving fireground demands greater insights and an increased understanding of buildings, occupancy risk profiling (ORP) and building anatomy. Recently there has been a movement that has categorized buildings into two groups: engineered and legacy construction.
I strongly believe this is far too limiting and restrictive which is resulting in missed opportunities to develop further insights into other building systems and occupancy risk profiling. In order to refine categories that provide corresponding values related to inherent construction features, systems, collapse and comprise, performance characteristics, fire integrity, resistance etc., the following building anatomy categories are suggested and promoted:
Integrated Hybrid Systems
2002- current …
Composite Engineered Systems
2010 – current …
Give some thought to the time spans and the types of buildings at would compromise each group. I’ll post an upcoming article with expanded narrative on each…..
Report focuses on the causes and characteristics of fire injuries in residential buildings
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report today examining the characteristics of civilian fire injuries in residential buildings. The report, Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
According to the report:
Seventy-six percent of all civilian fire injuries occurred as a result of fires in residential buildings.
Cooking (30 percent) was the primary cause for residential building fires that resulted in injuries.
Thirty-five percent of civilian fire injuries in residential buildings resulted from trying to control a fire followed by attempting to escape (26 percent).
Seventy-nine percent of injuries resulting from residential building fires involved smoke inhalation and thermal burns.
The leading human factor contributing to injuries in residential building fires was being asleep (55 percent).
Bedrooms (35 percent) were the leading location where civilian injuries occurred in residential building fires.
Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) is part of the Topical Fire Report Series. Topical reports explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS.
Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information.
Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.
Operations at 30 Dowling Circle 01.19.2011 Box 11-09
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.
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.
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.
Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department web site HERE
The following is and executive narrative of the final report (PDF) on the apartment fire where Volunteer Firefighter Mark Falkenhan sustained fatal injuries. The entire report can be downloaded HERE .
The Baltimore Sun newspaper published an editorial about the death of Firefighter Falkenhan that is required reading; HERE . An excerpt from the editorial reads as follows:
FF Mark Falkenhan
The word “hero” gets used too often to describe the most pedestrian of admirable behaviors, from the star quarterback who marches his team for a winning score to the kid who finds a missing wallet and turns it in. But exceptional bravery, special ability, exceptional deeds and noble qualities — those are what define an authentic hero, and Mr. Falkenhan lacked for none of them.
It was not by accidental circumstance or naiveté that he ended up on the third story of that Hillendale apartment complex in the midst of a fire, searching for missing residents. He knew the risks as well as anyone could. But his selfless desire to help others drove him forward into the flames.
That’s what made him exceptional. That’s why his legacy is important. That’s why the community is in his debt.
Incident Executive Summary
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.
Baltimore County Fire Department Standard Operating Procedures, Personnel #16, requires a team to be formed, a detailed investigation to be conducted and a report produced for any incident involving a line of duty life threatening injury or death. The team’s objective is to thoroughly analyze and document all the events leading to the injury or death and to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar occurrences in the future. At a minimum, a Division Chief, the Department’s Health and Safety Officer, a member from the Fire Investigation Division, an IAFF Local 1311 union representative, and the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association Vice President of Operations (when a volunteer member is involved) is required (see Acknowledgements section for actual team make-up).
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.
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta will be used to designate the clockwise geographic locations of the structure, beginning with Alpha on the address side of the building . Entry is gained through the front split-level stairwell by a common entrance door with individual doors leading to each apartment. Each apartment consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and a living/dining area. There are sliding doors leading to either a wood joist deck/balcony on the second and third floor apartments, or a concrete patio on the first floor apartments. Utilities consist of gas service to the furnace and hot water heaters located in a utility closet in each apartment, with electric service to the remainder of the appliances, including the stove. Interior walls of the apartments are drywall over wood stud construction.
Floor coverings consist of carpeting over tile and concrete on the terrace/first floor. The second and third floor coverings consist of carpeting covering hardwood floors with a plywood subfloor. Interior doors are hollow wood construction. The door to the common hallway is of solid wood construction. The sliding doors to the deck/patio area are glass.
The development and construction of the Towson Crossing Apartments began in the early 1980’s. The buildings are rated in the existing building code for occupancy as Residential 2 (R2). The building code would describe the construction type as Type III. This construction type includes those buildings where the exterior walls are of non-combustible materials and the interior building elements are of any material permitted by the building code.
Building Construction and Features
The subject apartment building, 30 Dowling Circle, is a three story, middle of the group, apartment building constructed on a reinforced concrete slab. The Alpha and Charlie exterior walls are wood framed construction with brick veneer attached by brick ties. The Bravo and Delta exterior walls are block masonry construction and separate adjoining apartment buildings. The interior partition walls consist of wooden 2″x4″ wall studs covered with sheetrock. Paper faced insulation is found between the exterior walls, ceilings and party-walls that separate the apartments.
The apartment building contains six individual apartment units, which are approximately 1000 square feet in size per apartment unit. Two separate units are located on each floor and consist of two bedrooms, a living area, a dining area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. A utility closet is located in each of the living areas. The closet is located along the Alpha wall, and contains the water heater and furnace.
The building is not equipped with an automatic fire suppression system. Smoke detectors were noted; however, it is unknown if they were operational at the time of the fire. A fire extinguisher was noted on the landing between the second and third floor levels of the building.
From side Alpha the building has two and a half stories above grade while side Charlie is three stories above grade.
The first floor of the building is approximately five feet below ground level with a 20 foot set back from the apartment building parking lot. Side Charlie of the building is at ground level but slopes upward approximately 8 feet with a set-back of 110 feet from the rear alley.
The roof is constructed of a lightweight truss assembly consisting of 2″x6″ stringers connected by gusset plates. The truss assembly is covered with 5/8 inch plywood and asphalt shingles.
Floor and Ceiling
The floor assembly consists of 2×10 inch floor joists covered by plywood, wooden tongue and groove planking and finished with carpet. The joists run from Alpha to Charlie and are supported by the interior bearing walls. The kitchen floors in all of the units are covered with vinyl tile.
The ceilings throughout the building are sheetrock nailed to the floor joists of the apartment above with the exception of the third level in which the sheetrock is nailed to the roof joists.
The balconies are located on side Charlie of the building. The balconies located on levels two and three consist of 5/4″ deck boards over 2″x10″ wooden joists. The joists are cantilevered off of the floor/ceiling assemblies of levels one and two. The first floor balconies are made of concrete and are at ground level. All balconies are accessible through a single pane sliding glass door located in each apartment.
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.
Initial Arrival 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.
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.
Preflashover conditions Alpha Side 18:37 hours
At 1831 hours, Squad 303, a unit staffed by a Driver/Operator, Firefighter Falkenhan (acting Officer in Charge), and 3 other Firefighters had arrived at the Alpha side of the building. Firefighter Falkenhan and two crew members grabbed their tools and immediately entered the building. One Firefighter (Firefighter #1) proceeded to the terrace floor apartment to assist crews with fire attack. Firefighter Falkenhan and the other Firefighter (Firefighter #2) proceeded to the second floor
Bravo side apartment (Apt. A-1) to search for additional victims. They forced the door to the second floor apartment and conducted their search. Finding no one, they reported to Command that they had encountered high heat in the apartment and at 1838 hours, inquired as to which apartment victim #2 had been found. Firefighter Falkenhan advised Command that he and his fellow Firefighter were proceeding to the third floor to continue their search.
At 1840 hours, Battalion Chief 11 (BC-11) arrived on the scene, performed a face-to-face pass on with the Captain on Engine 11, and assumed Command. BC-11 initially observed limited smoke conditions, indicating to him that crews had made progress in extinguishing the fire.
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant and Firefighter from T-8 entered the second floor apartment that S-303 had just searched (Apt. A-1, second floor, Bravo side). They proceeded through the apartment and went across the hallway to Apartment A-2 where Truck-1 had just made their rescue (second floor, Delta side).
The Lieutenant noted smoky conditions, and saw that the sliding doors to the rear of the apartment were open, and saw a small fire in the rear of the apartment to the left of the open doors. On their way back to their point of entry, T-8’s crew discovered an unconscious female victim (victim #3). At 1837 hours, T-8 attempted to reach Command via radio and was covered by inaudible radio traffic. Dispatch was able to receive the radio transmission from T-8, and advised Command that another victim had been located on the second floor.
At this point, the crew from S-303 had completed their search of the third floor Bravo side apartment (Apt. B-1).
Firefighter Falkenhan and Firefighter #2 were able to look out of the sliding doors on side Charlie down to the first floor apartment, Apt. T-2 (Charlie/Delta side) and could see fire.
Smoke conditions on the third floor were light enough to walk upright in a somewhat crouched position.
The crew returned to the hallway, forced open the door to the third floor Charlie/Delta side apartment, Apt. B-2, and made entry.
Firefighter #2 walked down the hallway to the bedroom on the right while Firefighter Falkenhan searched to the left. After checking the bedroom, Firefighter #2 stated that he heard something behind him and turned to see fire in the hallway.
As the crew from S-303 searched the third floor Delta side apartment (Apt. B-2), The Lieutenant and Firefighter from T-8 were attempting to remove victim #3 from the second floor Delta side apartment (Apt. A-2). As they prepared to move their patient, fire conditions changed suddenly.
The Lieutenant from T-8 observed fire, “…rolling over our heads and out of the apartment door.” An immediate increase in heat conditions was noted. Upon exiting the apartment, T-8’s crew described a “tunnel of fire” coming out of the apartment and into the hallway. At 1841 hours, a radio transmission was made by an unknown source that heavy fire was observed in the hallway through a window at the stairwell landing.
At the same time, (1841) one minute after his arrival, Battalion Chief-11 (Command) noted heavy black smoke coming from the building and observed a “flash” through a second floor window. Command immediately ordered an evacuation of the building. Dispatch sounded the evacuation tones over the radio, and repeated the order to evacuate. Engines on the scene sounded their air horns to indicate that the order to evacuate had been given.
Firefighter #2 from S-303 reported hearing the engines on the fire ground sound their air horns, indicating to him that he needed to leave the building. Smoke conditions in the apartment had changed to thick black smoke, and the fire intensified, blocking his means of egress from the bedroom.
Realizing that he needed to get out of the apartment quickly, Firefighter#2 crawled to a window on the Alpha side of the bedroom and signaled Firefighters below with his hand light to move a ladder to the window. Crews immediately moved the ladder, and at 1841, Firefighter#2 dove headfirst out of the window and down the ladder, where he was assisted by crews working on the exterior of the building.
At 1841, Firefighter Falkenhan declared, “Emergency” on his radio, and repeated the same seven seconds later.
Command immediately queried S-303 for his location and the transmission “I’m down to the floor, heavy fire” was heard. At 1842 hours, Dispatch sounded emergency tones and restricted the Talkgroup to communications only between S-303 and Command.
Seconds later Firefighter Falkenhan again keyed up his portable radio and advised “…trapped on the 3rd floor, heavy fire on the Alpha/Bravo.”
Fourteen seconds later he advised “I hear crew members, the third, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.”
Command notified Dispatch, “We have a MAYDAY” and was interrupted by a transmission from Firefighter Falkenhan, “urgent.”
Command made several attempts to contact Falkenhan to ascertain his location and determine resources needed (Location Unit Name Assignment Resources) for rescue.
Upon hearing the MAYDAY, crews on side Charlie threw multiple ladders to the third floor balcony to assist with rescue.
Heavy heat, smoke, and fire conditions made rescue difficult, but Firefighter Falkenhan was located and removed from the apartment via the balcony to the extended aerial ladder from T-8. He was unconscious and unresponsive at this time. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued enroute to the hospital. Firefighter Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Consolidated List of Recommendations
1. Company officers shall ensure that crew integrity is maintained at all times by all personnel operating in an IDLH environment. 2. No personnel shall operate in an IDLH environment without a portable radio.
1. If possible, the firefighter should activate his/her Emergency button on the portable radio. 2. Once personnel have called a MAYDAY and provided the information needed (LUNAR), they will activate their PASS Device manually and intermittently.
1. Tactical Operations Manual 07 allows Incident Commanders the flexibility to adapt to fast-moving and complex incidents. When re-assuming command, the IC must be identified (verbally through Fire Dispatch) to allow units involved and responding to know who is in command.
2. Incident Commanders must understand that an early initial 360° would give the IC the information needed to develop effective strategy and tactics for incident mitigation.
3. Additional arriving units must give the IC an updated report on fire conditions when noticeably different than those announced in the Brief Initial Report.
4. Arriving units should prompt the IC to assign them supervision of a division when conditions warrant such action.
5. The IC must ensure that all division and group supervisors are properly deployed and verbalize same on the radio for Dispatch and units involved on the incident.
6. Reinforce the importance of the ICS and its functional components for all officers.
7. Ensure a manageable span-of-control is maintained throughout the incident.
8. Evaluate the efficiency of command and control as incidents escalate.
9. A Rapid Intervention Team is a vitally important part of the ICS and its assignment should not be overlooked.
Strategy and Tactics
1. Use caution when passing a hydrant that is in your direction of travel and close to the fire building in an attempt to get a closer one.
2. Consider having the initial backup line proceeding into the same point of entry as the initial crew operating in the IDLH environment. Doing this allows for the line to also aid in protecting the common stairwell (i.e. fire extension/protection for egress). Deploy a third line if needed into another point of access.
3. Consider dialing nozzles up to higher gallons per minute for large structures such as apartment buildings.
4. Consider utilizing a 2-1/2″ attack line for fire attack.
5. The current SOP should be modified to state that when the initial Incident Commander feels that the incident has stabilized to a point where there is no longer a need for him/her to be directly involved with incident operations, a notification through Dispatch shall be made to inform crews on and en route to the scene.
6. The Department should develop training to ensure that Incident Commanders relay changes in modes of operations.
7. Consider attacking fires from other sides of the structure that are on grade.
8. Consider the use of “door control” for protection during search and rescue and exposure protection
9. When deviations to initial orders are made, they must be communicated to Command.
10. IC should consider setting up a division supervisor with the first arriving officer to balance his/her span-of-control early into the incident.
11. Command should initiate group and division supervisors early into an incident and use them to reduce his/her span-of-control. Communicate Conditions, Actions, Needs (CAN) reports early and often.
12. When units are the initial crews deployed to a geographic location, consideration should be given to “prompt” Command to make them a division supervisor (in the absence of direction from Command).
13. Units should request resources, or supply their own as necessary to support the operations that they are undertaking.
14. When given a division assignment, “step back” to take in the overall picture and communicate progress reports to Command.
15. Be clear and concise when setting up division assignments.
16. Utilize the division supervisors for incident operations once assigned.
17. Training on effective use of interior doors to control fire spread should be promoted throughout the department.
18. Consider removing common stairwell windows earlier in fire ground operations when appropriate.
19. While performing operations above the fire, notify Command of changing conditions and immediately request resources to support your function.
20. Set up a command post as early as possible to aid in deploying and accounting for resources as they arrive on the fire ground.
21. Notify Command when entering an IDLH.
22. Request resources to support functions.
23. Set up divisions and groups early to aid in managing the strategic priorities.
24. Be clear in communicating strategy and tactics to companies involved in operations.
25. Command should make it a priority to deploy attack lines on all floors to support the operations of crews working in the area.
1. A rubberized cover for the radio speaker microphone should be tested by communications and field personnel. This device will cover the push-to-talk (PTT) button and will increase the pressure required for activation. If proved effective, this cover will decrease the likelihood of an accidental activation of the PTT button during vigorous fire ground activity.
2. Continuing study should occur to evaluate methods to control inadvertent radio interference from all units (on the scene, responding, or monitoring) during incident operations. Review PTT logs to identify sources of communications interference.
3. As a result of the investigation, PTT log files will now be saved for 25 days.
4. Fire Communications and field personnel will develop and distribute a mandatory training program outlining proper radio procedures including the importance of radio discipline, MAYDAY procedures, and the procedure for establishing a Command restricted talk group during critical operations.
5. All personnel engaged in operations in an environment immediately dangerous to life and health shall carry a portable radio.
6. The aforementioned mandatory training program shall stress the importance of giving regular updates to Command regarding the extent and location of the fire and other pertinent information.
Take a moment to look back at an incident: On December 18, 1998, Three FDNY Firefighters died in-the line of duty while conducting suppression and rescue operations at fire on the tenth floor of 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly. At 0454 hours Brooklyn transmitted box 4080 for a top floor fire at 17 Vandalia Avenue in the Starrett City development complex. The sprawling complex is located on Brooklyn’s south shore in the Spring Creek section. The 10 story 50 x 200 fireproof building is used as a senior citizen’s residence. Engine 257 and ladder 170, both quartered in Canarsie, were assigned 1st due and arrived within 4 minutes. By that time the fire already could be seen blowing through two windows. Second and 3rd alarms were quickly transmitted.
As the 1st due Ladder Company, L170′s duty is to search the fire floor. Lieutenant Joseph Cavalieri, and fire fighters Christopher Bopp and James Bohan ascended 10 flights of stairs with extinguishers and forcible entry tools. Their mission was to rescue the resident of apartment 10-D who was believed trapped inside.
NIOSH INVESIGATIVE REPORT SUMMARY (F99-01) On December 18, 1998, several fire companies and fire fighters responded at 0454 hours to a reported fire on the tenth floor of a 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly. The fire had been burning for 20 to 30 minutes before it was called in because the resident attempted to put the fire out with small pans of water. As the fire fighters approached the building from the rear, an orange glow was observed in the window of Apartment 10D. As the fire fighters were arriving in front of the high-rise, a call was received from Central Dispatch that a female resident in the apartment next door to the fire apartment was trapped in her apartment and needed help. Several fire fighters entered the lobby area, and some took the stairs to the ninth floor, while others took the elevator to the ninth floor. A Lieutenant and two fire fighters on Ladder 170 (the victims), along with the Lieutenant on Engine 290, took the B-stairs from the ninth floor to the tenth floor, and entered the hallway, in search of the fire, while 4 fire fighters on Engine 290 were flaking out the hose line on the ninth floor and in the stairwell between the ninth and tenth floor in preparation for hookup.
During this same time period, other fire fighters had gone to the tenth floor A-stairwell landing to attempt a hose line hookup to the standpipe in the landing. Engine Company 257 fire fighters, who were attempting to make a hook-up on the fire floor landing, experienced trouble with the heat, heavy smoke, and heavy insulation on the standpipe and were forced to abandon this hook-up. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 and the victims, who were on the B-side, were approaching the center smoke doors (see diagram), when the Lieutenant radioed his driver on the outside, and asked, “Where is the fire?”
The driver radioed back, the fire is in the rear, towards exposure 4. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 then left the tenth floor, descended the stairs to the ninth floor and helped his men drag the hose to the A-stairwell, where they met up with fire fighters on Engine 257, who assisted them in stretching their line and hook-up on the ninth floor. The victims proceeded through the center smoke doors in search of the fire. From the information obtained during this investigation, it is believed the victims found the fire apartment, with the door partially opened, allowing smoke and hot gases to enter the hallway. They then opened the door fully, the wind pushed the fire and extreme heat in the apartment into the hallway, and a flashover occurred, exposing the victims to extreme radiant heat that potentially elevated their body core temperature.
The last radio transmission from the victims was a Mayday call. When the victims were found, all were unresponsive, they were treated at the scene and taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead by the attending physician.
This wind-driven fire event and the lessons-learned contributed directly to the current body of research and new insights on emerging strategies and tactics. The NIOSH Investigative Report HERE. NIST References on Wind Driven Fire Research HERE . FDNewYork.com HERE. New York Times Archived Articles, HERE and HERE. Photos and legacy, HERE
Take the time to remember FDNY Lt. Joseph Cavaleiri, FF Christopher Bopp and Firefighter James Bohan from Ladder 170
Remembering Brackenridge, Pennsylvania December 20, 1991: Four Firefighters Killed, Trapped by Floor Collapse
Four volunteer firefighters died when they were trapped by a partial floor collapse during a structure fire in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, on the morning of December 20, 1991. All four were members of a mutual aid truck company that had responded to the early morning incident and were assigned to prevent fire extension from the basement to the ground floor of a 2-story building.
Although they were wearing full protective clothing and using self-contained breathing apparatus, it appears that they were overwhelmed by the severe fire conditions that erupted when a section of the ground floor collapsed into the basement.
The collapse cut off their primary escape path, and the fire burned through their hose line, leaving them without protection from the flames.
SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES
Situation: Fire in enclosed room in basement. Unable to locate fire because of smoke. Smoke and heat increasing, but no visible fire.
Structure: Appeared to be heavy concrete construction. Actually thin concrete floors supported by unprotected steel.
Contents: Furniture refinishing business. Quantities of flammable finishes and solvents in basement.
Exits: One entrance/ exit on each level; no alternate exits.
Structural Collapse: Floor section collapsed between interior crew and their only exit. Fire overwhelmed crew.
Rescue Attempts: Valiant rescue efforts proved unsuccessful. Unsure if missing members fell into basement or were trapped on ground floor.
Incident Command: No formal command system or personnel accountability in place. Chief of first-due company in command of incident; Assistant Chiefs assigned to basement and ground floor.
Information: No pre-fire plan and no detailed knowledge of occupancy. Clues of structural danger not recognized as fire conditions increased
Communications: Radio system inadequate for current needs.
Response: Independent volunteer companies. Mutual aid requested on arrival and additional companies called in succession.
Weather: Extremely cold night, predawn hours. Problems with frozen hydrants.
Water System: Weak supply. Extensive mutual aid and long relays needed to protect exposures.
The analysis of this incident provides several valuable lessons for the fire service. Unfortunately these are all revisited lessons, not new discoveries. These firefighters died in the line of duty, while conducting operations that appeared to be routine, and were unaware of the situation that was developing below them. They died in spite of the fact that they were experienced, they were operating with a standard approach to operational safety, and they were the object of repeated rescue attempts by highly capable comrades.
There are several factors that could have provided warning or changed the outcome of this situation. Like most accidents, this situation was the result of a number of problems that came together under the worst possible circumstances. Firefighting obviously involves inherent dangers that must be accepted by its practitioners. The important messages for the fire service are to identify risk factors in advance of an incident and to develop mechanisms to react appropriately when critical situations present themselves.
This situation bears distinct similarities to other incidents that have claimed the lives of several firefighters in the past. The lessons that must be derived from this incident are not a condemnation of the actions or judgment of anyone who was involved in the situation; they simply identify information that can help to prevent this type of accident from occurring in the future.
U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued the 2010 Fire Estimate Summary Series which presents basic information on the size and status of the fire problem in the United States as depicted through data collected in USFA’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). The data summary series was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is further evidence of FEMA’s commitment to sharing information with the American public, fire departments, and first responders around the country to help them keep their communities safe.
Fire Estimate Summaries present basic data on the size and status of the fire problem in the United States as depicted through data collected in the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). Each Fire Estimate Summary addresses the size of the specific fire or fire-related issue and highlights important trends in the data.1
Residential Building Estimates
Definition of Residential Building
A structure is a constructed item of which a building is one type.
The term residential structure commonly refers to buildings where people live. To coincide with this concept, the definition of a residential structure fire includes only those fires confined to an enclosed building or fixed portable or mobile structure with a residential property use.
Such fires are referred to as residential buildings to distinguish these buildings from other structures on residential properties that may include fences, sheds, and other uninhabitable structures.
Residential buildings include, but are not limited to one- or two-family dwellings, multifamily dwellings, manufactured housing, boarding houses or residential hotels, commercial hotels, college dormitories, and sorority/fraternity houses.
Fire Estimate Summaries of Residential Building Fire Trends and Causes (2010)
Residential Building Fires (2006-2010)
Residential Building National Estimates (2003-2010)
Definition of Nonresidential Building Nonresidential buildings are a subset of nonresidential structures and refer to buildings on nonresidential properties. Buildings include enclosed structures, subway terminals, underground buildings, and fixed portable or mobile structures.
The term nonresidential buildings refers to those nonresidential structures that are enclosed.
Nonresidential buildings include assembly, eating and drinking establishments, educational facilities, stores, offices, basic industry, manufacturing, storage, detached garages, outside properties, and other nonpermanent residential buildings.
The term nonresidential also includes institutional properties such as prisons, nursing homes, juvenile care facilities, and hospitals, though many people may reside there for short (or long) durations of time.
Fire Estimate Summaries of Nonresidential Building Fire Trends and Causes (2010)
Nonresidential Building Fires (2006-2010)
Nonresidential Building National Estimates (2003-2010)
1 Fire Estimate Summaries are based on the USFA’s national estimates methodology. The USFA is committed to providing the best and most current information on the United States’ fire problem and, as a result, continually examines its data and methodology. Because of this commitment, changes to data collection strategies and estimate methodologies occur, causing estimates to change slightly over time. Previous estimates on specific issues (or similar issues) may have been a result of different methodologies or data definitions used and may not be directly comparable to current estimates.
State investigators have cited the San Francisco Fire Department for “serious” worker safety violations in the deaths of two firefighters killed battling a Diamond Heights house fire in June. Reports were published in the San Francisco Chronical, HERE and HERE.
Firefighters lost track of Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53, after they went into the four-level home at 133 Berkeley Way on June 2 and failed to respond quickly to the men’s last radio communication, investigators with the state Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health said in a report issued Monday.
In recommending that the Fire Department be fined $21,000, the state investigators also said the department had violated state rules requiring that two firefighters be designated outside to assist any two firefighters who venture into a life-threatening environment.
Only one firefighter from Perez and Valerio’s engine company – the first on the scene – was available to come to their help during the blaze, the investigation found.
The state also cited the Fire Department for an incident – evidently before the fatal flareup – in which an unidentified battalion chief ventured into the burning building alone, without keeping in contact with Perez and Valerio. That was also deemed a serious violation of safety rules.
“These are serious in that they had protocols in place, but they weren’t following them,” said Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the worker safety agency. “There’s no question that a lack of communications was a big issue here. The investigator found there was a breakdown there.”
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the department would appeal the findings. She said state officials have told her commanders that the violations fell short of finding the department’s actions responsible for the two firefighters’ deaths. “None of the citations involved a direct cause of the line-of-duty deaths,” Hayes-White said. Monterroza confirmed that, saying the exact circumstances of the firefighters’ deaths could not be determined.
Valerio, Perez and a third member of Engine Company 26 in Diamond Heights were the first firefighters to arrive at the mid-morning blaze, which started when a sparking electrical outlet set curtains on fire.
The third firefighter manned the pumper hose while Valerio and Perez went inside to fight the fire, but the safety regulations require a fourth firefighter to be available outside to assist.
A scene commander, identified by firefighters as Battalion Chief Thomas Abbott, ordered a crew from Engine Company 24 to back up Valerio and Perez inside the building. For several minutes, however, scene commanders tried to find the Engine 26 firefighters, without success.
There was an unspecified gap between that last communication and any effort by firefighters to respond over the radio or track down the men, the state investigation found.
The reports goes on to state that Hayes-White said the department’s investigative report – still in draft form – concluded that the fire had melted one of the firefighters’ microphone cords, cutting off communications. She said any delay in firefighters’ response would be addressed in the final report.
Firefighters ultimately found Perez and Valerio in a landing area and carried the injured men outside. Perez was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital, and Valerio died there two days later.
The state probe also faulted the actions of the unnamed battalion chief who went into the building “alone and also did not remain in contact with the firefighters who were inside.”
Hayes-White said the battalion chief had gone inside only briefly, had seen Perez and Valerio alive and had never been out of other firefighters’ view.
A video clip of a structure fire occurring in a single family residential occupancy shows, in the first few frames a back draft occurring per-arrival of fire services. It’s apparent there is a developing and progressing fire in the Charlie division which may have originated in the, or vicinity of the detached garage (B-C) which had a breezeway connected to the main house.
Alpha Street View
The large volume hip style (concealed space) roof may have become rapidly charged with elevated temperatures, superheated gases, products of combustion and possibly the initial stages direct flame extension through the eaves and into the truss loft. Incident scene operations photos depict an engineered structural roof system.
Aerial View- Divisions
Single family (SFD), Residential Occupancy
2, 263 Sq. Ft.
Wood frame, slab on grade
B- SFD Residential; similar
C- Yard, with Detached Garage (B-C) and large room extension
D- SFD Residential; similar
Aerial Alpha and Charlie with Roof
Pre-arrival fire conditions exhibit indicators that suggest the need for the rapid intervention of arriving companies and a coordinated aggressive posture tactically if the incident action plan is formulated to achieve an interior attack. Given the scenario of the backdraft conditions, the likelihood for a degraded or compromised ceiling membrane enclosure (intact ceilings, thus limiting fire extension) being present will hamper and may be an operational concern for interior operating companies as fire conditions continue to grow in magnitude and severity and full extend and take command of the truss loft enclosure.
These fire conditions will extend into the space, resulting in degradation of the structural components and roof assembly-which will present a high risk potential for isolated or catastrophic collapse. This intrusion into the truss loft would require interior operating company officers to maintain attentiveness towards the effectiveness and progress of tactical suppression and support tasks with the potential for fire quickly dropping into operating areas and affecting firefighter safety.
Coordinated and timely vertical ventilation and roof work may be warranted if part of the normal operating parameters of the fire service agencies. In some areas of the county, vertical ventilation is not considered a tactical functional objective and is not implemented.
Adequate fire flow for suppression must be established early on in the operations, if an interior attack is implemented. Projected fire intensity and severity may challenge initial engine companies if hand lines and fire flow rates and the placement of hose streams are ineffective or marginal. In the event of master stream operations it would be crucial to ensure interior fire suppression operations are suspended, a transition to a defensive mode is communicated and acknowledge on the fireground with collapse zone considerations.
In viewing the video of pre-arrival conditions and fire parameters and indicators; as an arriving company officer or commanding officer, how would you establish your incident action plan (IAP) and establish operations? Present and discuss why you would make these decisions, what is/are the basis?
What would you be considering in the areas of:
Interior Fire Attack Considerations
Resource Needs: Staffing and Apparatus
Critical Operational Tasks
Hose Line Placement
Contingency Issues: What can go wrong?
Assuming you are just arriving on scene and observe the backdraft conditions from the front seat; What would your operational IAP be and why?
Identify and discuss the types of mission critical size-up consideration that must be recognized and processed?
How does apparatus placement affect incident operations?
What first-due operational factors have you experienced that were contingent upon other tasks or considerations that were apparent to you or you implemented?
How does extreme fire behavior and fire dynamics affect your fire ground position?
How does this scenario and building size and type relate to similar structures and occupancies in your district or mutual aid/greater alarm response area?
NFPA releases state-level fire service needs assessment for every U.S. state. Findings based on Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service with comparisons to earlier studies
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a fire service needs assessment for each state based on findings from the Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service, a study that looked at the current needs of America’s fire departments as compared to those identified in assessments done in 2001 and 2005. The goal of the project was to identify major gaps in the needs of the U.S. fire service and to determine if the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (DHS/FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs are continuing to reduce the needs of fire departments.
The report looked at personnel and their capabilities, including staffing, training, certification, and wellness/fitness; facilities and apparatus; personal protective equipment, fire prevention and code enforcement; the ability to handle unusually challenging incidents; and communications and new technologies.
Nearly half (46 percent) of all fire departments that are responsible for structural firefighting have not formally trained all their personnel involved in structural firefighting, down from 55 percent in 2001 and 53 percent in 2005.
Seven out of ten (70 percent) fire departments have no program to maintain basic firefighter fitness and health, down from 80 percent in 2001 and 76 percent in 2005.
Nearly half (46 percent) of all fire department engines and pumpers were at least 15 years old, down from 51 percent in 2001 and 50 percent in 2005.
Half (52 percent) of all fire departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), down from 70 percent in 2001 and 60 percent in 2005.
Two out of five (39 percent) fire departments do not have enough personal alert safety system devices (PASS) to equip all emergency responders on a shift, down from 62 percent in 2001 and 48 percent in 2005.
Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service conducted by NFPA concluded:
Needs have declined to a considerable degree in a number of areas, particularly personal protective and firefighting equipment, two types of resources that received the largest shares of funding from the AFG programs.
Some innovative technologies that have not been identified as necessary in existing standards but are known to be very useful to today’s fire service – including Internet access and thermal imaging cameras – have also seen large increases in use.
Declines in needs have been more modest in some other important areas, such as training, which have received much smaller shares of AFG funds.
Still other areas of need, such as apparatus, stations, and the staffing required to support the stations, have seen either limited reductions in need (e.g., apparatus needs in rural areas) or no reductions at all (e.g., adequacy of stations and personnel to meet standards and other guidance on speed and size of response).
Fire prevention and code enforcement needs have shown no clear improvement over the past decade.
In all areas emphasized by the AFG and SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grants, there is ample evidence of impact from the grants but also considerable residual need still to be addressed, even for needs that have seen considerable need-reduction in the past decade.
There has been little change in the ability of departments, using only local resources, to handle certain types of unusually challenging incidents, including two types of homeland security scenarios (structural collapse and chem/bio agent attack) and two types of large-scale emergency responses (a wildland/urban interface fire and a developing major flood).
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Web Site, HERE
NFPA 1710: Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, 2010 Edition, Order HERE
NFPA has conducted a series of national surveys to identify the needs of the fire service for resources required to safely and effectively carry out their responsibilities. The surveys indicated the resources fire departments had, while NFPA codes and standards and other national guidance documents defined the requirements. The gaps between resources in hand and resources required defined the needs.
These reports look at personnel and their capabilities, including staffing, training, certification, and wellness/fitness; facilities and apparatus; personal protective equipment; fire prevention and code enforcement; the ability to handle unusually challenging incidents; and communications and new technologies.
All three studies began with requests from Congress, and the first two studies were conducted with and sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration and its parent agencies.
2011 A Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service (PDF, 1 MB)
June 2011. 216 pages
Updated study examining the needs of the U.S. fire service in such areas as training, certification, personnel, apparatus, equipment, and fire prevention, with particular attention to homeland security type incidents.
The following are state-level reports based on the findings in each of NFPA’s needs assessment reports.
2002 A Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service (PDF, 1 MB)
FEMA, USFA, and NFPA, December 2002. 160 pages
A comprehensive study done by FEMA, USFA and NFPA examining the needs and response capabilities of the U.S. fire service. Among the factors examined are personnel and their capabilities; fire prevention and code enforcement; stations, apparatus and equipment; and the ability to handle unusually challenging incidents. Results are reported by nationwide and community size.
Size-Up and Risk Assessment Skills: How are yours?
In this week’s issue of the National Fire Fighter’s Near-Miss ReportingSystem’s Report of the Week (ROTW) an informative focus was provided on near-miss reports related to Size-Up. We’re posting the ROTW alert in it’s entirety below.
Sizing up a structure for a fire attack is a skill that takes time, practice and experience to fully develop. When the first arriving (and any other arriving) officer surveys the structure, the process needs to be rapid and thorough. In some cases, if the size-up is too rapid, critical points can be overlooked. This oversight can result in unintended consequences for the initial attack team.
As seen in ROTW 11-216, it is worthwhile to take an extra minute to process the situation prior to attack.
“We were dispatched to an attic fire in a single-family home. Initial arrival was an on duty engine and ladder truck with two firefighters and one officer, who gave an on scene report of a two-story wood frame residential structure with heavy smoke showing from the rear…After seeing three sides of the building, the officer (myself) ran around to back side and found heavy flames venting from the second floor gable end off the rear of the structure. At the time it was not known if this area was an attic over a first floor addition or a room on the second floor. The officer decided a quick interior search and fire attack, pushing the fire out the already vented hole, would be the initial strategy…After searching the first floor and finding no stairs, the initial team exited the first floor and went to the rear of the structure where an exterior stairwell was found to the second floor. On initial size-up, the stairwell and two mailboxes on the house were missed, causing approximately a one minute delay to fire attack…Upon entry to the second floor, conditions were a light haze with complete visibility of the occupied area…A small pike pole was used to breach the wall while the nozzleman stood ready and the third firefighter moved hose. After an area between the studs and about two feet tall was opened, the attack line was discharged. Conditions went from almost clear to black and steamy instantly. After spraying the nozzle for less than 30 seconds (maybe even sooner) the room became too hot to occupy. All three of us announced we had to get out, almost at the same time…”
Reading the structure is as important as reading the smoke and fire conditions prior to mounting an interior attack. Aesthetics can play a large role in the building design, and what appears to be structural may truly not be safe to load. As 11-216 illustrates, the fire blowing from an upper floor window may not be as visible on the inside as it is on the outside. Once you have read the entire account of 11-216, and the related reports, consider the following:
The report notes that, “…exterior stairwell and two mailboxes on the house were missed”. What situational loss factor would best describe why that occurred? Go to our Facebook Page and record your answer and the reason why you selected the factor.
What fire behavior phenomenon occurred when the crew opened the interior wall and experienced conditions that went from “clear to black”?
If you were dispatched for fire in the attic and arrive to find heavy smoke and fire showing, what attack line would you select and why?
Based solely on the information provided in 11-216, would a two out be necessary before the interior attack could commence?
The reporter states “heavy smoke” was observed. Jot down a few factors that mean “heavy smoke” to you. Discuss what you wrote down with your colleagues.
The time pressure to go into action when we arrive at a working fire will often cause the size-up to be hurried. Remembering the lessons learned from 11-216 will make your next size-up more complete. The NMRS staff expressed thier thanks to the lieutenant from Region V for sharing what was learned.
Have you avoided a disaster because of a good size-up? Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today to pass on your experience.
Realize that the resource center and the near-miss reports are all formulative and can very easily support training drill development, just in time training, table-top discussions, scenario based exercises and review discussions with company, staff or command officers and all station or company personnel.NMRS Resource Section, HERE
Accessed from FDNY - Remembering the "23rd Street Fire" October 17, 1966, Facebook Page
On October 17th 1966, Manhattan Box 598 was struck at 21:36 hours for the report of a building fire at 7 East 22nd Street, an art dealer in a four story brownstone. On arrival, the heat and smoke was so intense companies could not make entry through the art dealer, and so attempted to make entry by way of the abutted building 6 East 23rd Street, The Wonder Drug store.
Crews were dealing with a very intense and spreading fire. With companies operating above the fire, little indication of a catastrophic collapse was present. Suddenly, a 16×35 foot section of the floor collapsed at around 22:39 hours causing ten firefighters to fall into the burning cellar. Two other firefighters on the first floor were killed in a burst of heat.
Firefighters evacuated immediately, except for some whom were trapped on the roof with direct flame impingement. Hand lines from the ground and a truck company ladder was able to rescue the group in time. Rescue operation ensued long into the morning. Several evacuations were ordered, and further collapses occurred. Aside from 9/11, this was the largest single line of duty death event in the FDNY’s history.
Stored in the basement of the art dealer were large quantities of highly flammable lacquer, paint, and finished wood frames. The first floor was supported by 3″ x 14″ wood beams. 3/4″ wood planking atop these beams was covered with five inches of concrete finished with terrazzo and insulated against all heat to the firefighters operating above. As part of a recent project, a common cellar under the two buildings was renovated, removing a load-bearing dividing wall that had supported the floor above. The cellar of the art dealer extended under the drug store illegally from this renovation.
The fire burned unknowingly in the Wonder Drug basement for over an hour when it finally collapsed. It took 14 hours to locate all downed firefighters in the rubble; the cause of the fire is unknown.
Building Construction Insights
Location of Fire Origin: Cellar of 7 East 22 St.
Location of Collapse: First floor of Exposure 3 building: 6 East 23 St. “The Wonder Drug Store.”
Fire Building Construction:
7 East 22 St: a brownstone, 20 x 60 brick and joist, four story residence.
The cellar, where the fire started, and first floor were occupied by an art dealer.
The cellar extended under the first floor of Wonder Drug for approximately 35 feet.
Collapse Building Construction:
6 East 23 St: a five story, 45 x 100 commercial building, brick & joist construction.
The rear, 16 x 35 foot, section of the first floor collapsed into the cellar occupied by 7 East 22 St.
The rear and side walls butted up to a 3-story white brick commercial building to the West at 3940-948 Broadway and to a 5-story brown brick building to the North at 6 East 23rd Street
Diagram NY Times (2006) Accessed from the internet 10.18.2011
(1) The fire building, 7 East 22 St, had a two story extension which abutted the rear of 6 East 23 St.
(2) The Cellar of 7 East 22 St extended under the first floor of 6 East 23 St for approximately 35 feet.
(3) The floor construction of 6 East 23 St was 3″ x 14″ wood beams topped by 3/4″ wood planking. On top of this, five inches of concrete with a terrazzo finish was added.
The firefighters in exposure 3, (6 East 23 St), killed in the collapse did not know they were operating directly over the cellar fire in 7 East 22 St. The five inch concrete terrazzo floor acted as an insulator.
It concealed the severe fire and heat below. The 3 inch x 14 inch floor beams spaced 16 inches on center were reduced in size and strength by the fire.
The first sign of weakness was the sudden collapse of a 15 x 35 foot section, which plunged the ten firefighters to their deaths. Two other firefighters were killed on the first floor by a ball of flame.
The 5-alarm fire wasthe single worst loss of New York City firefighters in the line of duty prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
FDNY LODD Twelve Members of Every Rank
Twelve members of every rank, from a probationary firefighter to a deputy chief, made the Supreme Sacrifice when the ground floor of the Wonder Drug store collapsed. The fire originated in a basement storage area, which was concealed by a four-inch thick cinderblock wall, illegally constructed by the building’s previous owner.
DC Thomas A Reilly, Division .3
BC Walter J Higgins, Battalion. 7
Lt John J Finley, Ladder 7
Lt Joseph Priore, Engine 18
Fr John G Berry, Ladder 7
Fr James V Galanaugh, Engine 18
Fr Rudolph F Kaminsky, Ladder 7
Fr Joseph Kelly, Engine 18
Fr Carl Lee Ladder, 7
Fr William F McCarron, Division 3
Fr Daniel L Rey, Engine 18
Fr Bernard A Tepper, Engine 18
From NYFD.com http://nyfd.com/history/23rd_street/23rd_street.html
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,331,500 fires. These fires resulted in 3,120 civilian fire fatalities, 17,720 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $11,593,000,000 in direct property loss. There was a civilian fire death every 169 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 30 minutes in 2010. Home fires caused 2,640, or 85%, of the civilian fire deaths. Fires accounted for five percent of the 28,205,000 total calls. Eight percent of the calls were false alarms; sixty-six percent of the calls were for aid such as EMS.
In 2010, public fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires in the United States, according to estimates based on data NFPA received from fire departments responding to its 2010 National Fire Experience Survey. This represents a slight decrease of 1.3 percent from the previous year and is the lowest since NFPA started using its current survey methodology in 1977 – 78.
An estimated 482,000 structure fires were reported to fire departments in 2010, an increase of 0.3 percent, or virtually no change from the year before. For the period from 1977 to 2010, inclusive, the number of structure fires peaked in 1977 when 1,098,000 structure fires occurred. The number of structure fires then decreased steadily, particularly in the 1980s, to 688,000 by the end of 1989, for an overall decrease of 37.3 percent from 1977. Since 1989, structure fires again decreased steadily for an overall decrease of 24.7 percent to 517,500 by the end of 1998. They stayed in the 505,000 to 530,500 range from 1999 to 2008, before dropping to 480,500 in 2009, and increasing in 2010.
Of the 2010 structure fires, 384,000 were residential fires, accounting for 79.7 percent of all structure fires, an increase of 1.9 percent from the year before. Of these residential structure fires, 279,000 occurred in one- and two-family homes, accounting for 57.9 percent of structure fires. Another 90,500 occurred in apartments, accounting for 18.8 percent of all structure fires.
NFPA 2010 Overview
For nonresidential structure fires, some property types showed notable changes. In public assembly occupancies, such fires decreased 17.2 percent to 12,000. In stores and offices, they increased 9.1 percent to 18,000. And in special structure properties, they dropped 11.1 percent to 20,000.
2010 Report Overview
1,331,500 fires were responded to by public fire departments, a decrease of 1.3 percent from the year before.
482,000 fires occurred in structures, an increase of 0.3 percent from 2009.
384,000 fires, or 80 percent of all structure fires, occurred in residential properties.
215,500 fires occurred in vehicles, a decrease of 1.6 percent from the year before.
634,000 fires occurred in outside properties, a decrease of 2.3 percent from 2009.
CIVILIAN FIRE DEATHS
3,120 civilian fire deaths occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2009.
About 85 percent of all fire deaths occurred in the home.
2,640 civilian fire deaths occurred in the home, an increase of 2.9 percent from 2009.
285 civilians died in highway vehicle fires.
90 civilians died in nonresidential structure fires.
CIVILIAN FIRE INJURIES
17,720 civilian fire injuries occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.9 percent from the year before.
13,800 of all civilian injuries occurred in residential properties, while 1,620 occurred in non-residential structure fires.
An estimated $11.6 billion in property damage occurred as a result of fire in 2010, a decrease of 7.5 percent from 2009.
$9.7 billion of property damage occurred in structure fires.
$7.1 billion of property loss occurred in residential properties.
INTENTIONALLY SET FIRES
An estimated 27,500 intentionally set structure fires occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.8 percent from 2009.
Intentionally set fires in structures resulted in 200 civilian deaths, an increase of 17.7 percent from the year before.
Intentionally set structure fires also resulted in $585,000,000 in property loss, a decrease of 14.5 percent from 2009.
14,000 intentionally set vehicle fires occurred, a decrease of 6.7 percent from the year before, and caused $89,000,000 in property damage, a decrease of 17.6 percent.
Estimate of Fires by Type in the United States (1977-2010) NFPA Statistics
Chicago Firefighters battled an (3-11) extra-alarm blaze saturday afternoon in the Lakeview neighborhood on the City’s North Side.
The extra alarm was called around 14:00 h0urs for a building on the 800 block of West Cornelia Avenue, bringing more than 100 CFD firefighters to the scene, according to preliminary information from Fire Media Affairs and reports publishedon Chicagoland media outlets.
About 15:00 hours the alarm was raised to a 3-11 alarm, and added an Emergency Medical Services Plan 1 mostly as a precaution, according to published erports.
At least one firefighter was checked over because of the extreme heat, but there were no immediate reports of other injuries, he said.
The fire has affected at least two buildings, including one 3-story courtyard apartment building.
Eric Clark for the Chicago Tribune / August 25, 2011
Four Chicago firefighters have been injured while battling a fire in the city’s West Englewood neighborhood Thursday night according to news media outlets. The fire was located within a 1-1/2 story wood frame residential occupancy in which fire suppression operations were underway.
Fire companies operating within the attic area with attack lines operating, experienced rapidly degrading conditions in which published reports indicated the “room lit up” suggesting a possible flashover condition. It was reported that vertical ventilation had been completed on the gable style roof and that coordinated company operations were well established both on the number one floor, within the attic and on exterior support operations.
Research indicates the house was built in 1905 and has 990 square feet of space. Constructed of balloon wood framing, the 1-1/2 story single family residential occupancy is typical of this vintage style housing.
Chicago’s fire commissioner credited the quick response of rescuers after firefighters were hit by a flash of flames while working in the attic of a home in theWest Englewood neighborhood. “It’s a matter of seconds before we would have had a different outcome,” Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said at Loyola University Hospital, where two of the four firefighters injured in the blaze remained hospitalized.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune (HERE) The fire started in the basement of a 1 1/2-story home in the 7000 block of South Justine Street and spread through the walls to the attic, Hoff said. As firefighters ventilated the roof and worked to extinguish the blaze, they were not aware of fire burning inside the walls behind them, Hoff said. Flames suddenly “lit up on them,” he said. “This is an example of how extremely dangerous and unpredictable this job is,” said Tom Ryan, president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. “There is no such thing as a routine fire.”
The two firefighters still hospitalized are a 52-year-old captain who suffered burns to his ears and back of the neck; and a 31-year-old firefighter with burns to his left hand and forehead. They suffered the burns when their masks were knocked loose as they tried to escape, Hoff said. Both are from Engine 54 and are stable, Hoff said.
A third firefighter who was taken to Loyola was released early this morning, and a fourth taken to Mount Sinai Hospital Thursday night. Fire Officials credited the Fire Department’s five-person rapid intervention team — which is routinely called to fires — for responding so quickly.
NIOSH Report Issue: Seven Career Fire Fighters Injured at a Metal Recycling Facility Fire – California
NIOSH Exective Summary
On July 13, 2010, 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
Ensure that pre-incident plans are updated and available to responding fire crews
Ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in combustible metal fire recognition and tactics
Ensure that policies are updated for the proper handling of fires involving combustible metals
Ensure that first arriving personnel and fire officers look for occupancy hazard placards on commercial structures during size-up
Ensure that all fire fighters communicate fireground observations to incident command
Ensure that fire fighters wear all personal protective equipment when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health environment
Ensure that an Incident Safety Officer is dispatched on the first alarm of commercial structure fires
Ensure that collapse/hazards zones are established on the fireground.
The fire department had a comprehensive list of SOGs and policies. However, the policy for the extinguishment of combustible metal fires was out dated. This policy called for copious amounts of water to be put on the combustible metal fire. The SOG for pre-incident planning was followed at this incident. However, due to the constantly changing business environment, the company had submitted a business plan that identified hazards to the city but this information did not get updated in the computer-aided dispatching (CAD) database for the fire department or dispatch.
A month prior to this incident on June 11, 2010, at 11:00 a.m., the same business owner’s metal processing facility located diagonally across the street from this incident, had several small explosions and fire. This incident required 36 fire department companies, 16 rescue ambulances, 1 USAR team, 2 hazardous material teams, 7 BCs, 1 DC, and a DDC, totaling 248 fire department personnel, in addition to mutual aid. Approximately 2 ½ hours of fire suppression operations with water brought the fire under control, which encompassed a 150′ x 100′ area of combustible metal shavings.
The company had metal –X (a brand of combustible metal fire extinguishing agent) available, but not enough of it to be effective. No fire fighters were injured. However, a civilian worker was critically injured and a police officer received minor injuries.
On Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 11:43 PM, 41 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 21 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 3 Arson Units, 1 Urban Search and Rescue Unit, 1 Rehab Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 3 EMS Battalion Captains, 8 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams, 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team and 2 Bulldozers under the direction of Deputy Chief Mario Rueda responded to a Major Emergency Structure Fire at 761 East Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles (CA).
More than 200 Los Angeles Firefighters were requested over the course of the incident to help battle a blaze at a large two-story commercial structure that encompassed six occupancies over an entire city block. Firefighters quickly arrived at United Alloys and Metals to find heavy fire at an industrial facility known for processing titanium and super alloy scrap.
The 73 year-old structures between Paloma Avenue and Mckinley Avenue, were quickly engulfed in flames and forced firefighters into a defensive attack early during this huge fire fight. Shortly after midnight the decision was made to pull all Firefighters out of the structure and attack the flames from the exterior.
Approximately 20 minutes following this decision a partial wall collapse, roof collapse, and a total of three explosions took place. These massive blasts rained down debris of concrete and titanium on Firefighters and even shattered windows of emergency vehicles.
From this point forward it became a heavy stream operation with ladder pipes and portable monitors that provided huge volumes of water against the intense flames. Despite the challenges of extinguishing burning titanium and the devastating explosions, the blaze was controlled in just five hours. Exhausted Firefighters were relieved the next morning by their colleagues who continued the extended overhaul and detailed salvage procedure. Link HERE
The incident involved a 45,000 square foot multiple business commercial structure that measured approximately 300′ x 150′ and was built in 1939. The commercial structure was divided into 3 sections with both Type III and Type V (metal clad) construction. The A-side (west) of the structure measured 60′ x 100′ under a heavy timber bowstring truss roof and exterior block walls covered with a stucco finish. This section of the structure contained denim fabric altering machinery.
The larger 210′ x 150′ open warehouse middle section of the structure was under a metal sawtooth roof (a roof composed of a series of small parallel roofs of triangular cross section, usually asymmetrical with the vertical slope glazed or windowed to allow for light) with concrete reinforced metal beam exterior walls covered with an exterior stucco finish. This section of the structure contained bins, bales, and piles of recyclable metals. The C-side of the structure was an office area that measured approximately 30′ x 150′. It was comprised of two stories with a conventional flat roof, wood framed interior walls, and concrete reinforced metal beam exterior walls covered with an exterior stucco finish.
Occupancy hazard placards existed at the A and C/D corner of the structure. The placards had a 3 health rating (a serious hazard) in the blue quadrant, a 4 flammability rating (flammable gases, violate liquids, pyrophoric materials) in the red quadrant, a 2 instability rating (a violent chemical change possible at elevated temperatures and pressure) in the yellow quadrant, and an OX (material is an oxidizer) in the white quadrant.
The commercial structure had been recently acquired, within the past year or two, by a local metal recycling company. The company had submitted the annual business plan to the city, which identified potential hazards, but this information had not been updated in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) database for the dispatch center or fire department. The construction features of the occupancy such as the bowstring trusses, presence of combustible metals, and access restrictions would have been critical information to the fire department for fighting a fire at this location. The fire department had pre-planned the structure prior to the metal recycling company acquiring the commercial structure.
Approximate Placement of Key Fireground Apparatus, Hoselines and Explosion Areas Relative to Commercial Fire Structure.
BC11 left the command post and was walking towards T10 and T66 when an upper section of wall on the D-side near the C/D corner collapsed followed by a larger upper midsection of wall on the D-side. BC11 recalled seeing white hot metal and was about to instruct the trucks to direct water away from the white burning metals. Seconds later, approximately 40 minutes into the incident, at 0026 hours, a large explosion propelled burning shrapnel into the air and caused small fires north and south of the structure. T33 and E66′s hoseline crews were blown backwards by the blast. T10 and mutual aid E9 were hit with flaming debris which broke through E9′s driver-side door window and ignited the seat.
T10 received several large dents and wooden ground ladders were ignited. Approximately 10 feet away, T10′s hoseline crew was blown approximately 20′ back and off the 2 ½” hoseline by the explosion. T10′s captain was backing up the nozzleman and was hit with burning debris causing serious burns on his hand and ear. T66′s captain jumped on the hoseline to stop it from whipping around. T10′s fire fighter operating the ladderpipe had seen 2 white flashes and greenish plumes just prior to explosion. When the explosion occurred he turned his head to the left causing pain and ringing in his right ear as white hot debris went all around him. Multiple hose beds and hoses on the ground were burned through. The explosion was reported to have been broadcast up and out in all directions .
The IC called for a personnel accountability report (PAR) which accounted for all personnel and indentified 2 injured fire fighters and a captain. Note: The other 4 fire fighters injuries were not made apparent until after the incident. Minutes later, the Division C chief (BC13) reported to the IC that he identified a National Fire Protection Association 704 placard above the entrance door on the C/D corner of the structure.
BC13 relayed to command the placard classifications of Health – 3, Flammability – 4, Reactivity – 2, and Special Hazards – OXIDIZER. The command team discussed the current fire department policy of using copious amounts of water on combustible metals and decided to alter the tactical plan based on information learned through the 704 placard and the fire conditions. The IC called for aerial ladderpipe personnel to move from the tip of the aerial to the aerial turntable. Note: When the decision is made to go defensive, ladderpipe personnel should be removed from the tip of the aerial to minimize any risk associated with being at an elevated height, such as explosions or falling. On Division C, two monitors and a 2 ½” hoseline were directed on the office area of the structure.
NIOSH Report Photo Image
Recommendation #1: Fire departments should ensure that pre-incident plans are updated and available to responding fire crews.
Discussion: NFPA 1620 Standard for Pre-Incident Planning, states “The purpose of this document shall be to develop pre-incident plans to assist responding personnel in effectively managing emergencies for the protection of occupants, responding personnel, property, and the environment.” A pre-incident plan identifies deviations from normal operations and can be complex and formal, or simply a notation about a particular problem such as the presence of flammable liquids, explosive hazards, modifications to structural building components, or structural damage from a previous fire.
Building characteristics including type (or more importantly risk) of construction, materials used, occupancy, fuel load, roof and floor design, and unusual or distinguishing characteristics should be recorded, shared with other departments who provide mutual aid, and if possible, entered into the dispatcher’s computer so that the information is readily available if an incident is reported at the noted address.
Since many fire departments have thousands to hundreds of thousands of structures within their jurisdiction, it is a challenge to establish an effective preplanning system that addresses all structures and hazards. Priority should be given to those locations having elevated or unusual fire hazards and life safety considerations.
Written SOGs enable individual fire department members an opportunity to read and maintain a level of assumed understanding of operational procedures. Conversely, fire departments can suffer when there is an absence of well developed SOGs. The NIOSH Alert: “Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters” identifies the need to establish and follow fire fighting policies and procedures. Guidelines and procedures should be developed, fully implemented and enforced to be effective. Periodic refresher training should also be provided to ensure fire fighters know and understand departmental guidelines and procedures.
One tool for fire departments to use in assessing their risks for structures within their jurisdictions is the mnemonic, BECOME SAFE:
A pre-planning process should integrate the BECOME SAFE concepts and include updated information from the annually submitted business plans and any other pertinent fire safety information needs to be developed by involving fire department personnel, dispatch center personnel, and building and fire code officials. NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annex Q, Fire Fighter Safety Building Marking System, makes direct reference to potential resolution towards identifying structures and contents.
It contains a standard symbol that integrates information about building construction features, content hazards, life safety systems and NFPA 704 placards into one placard. High hazard and life safety considerations for the storage, handling, and manufacturing of chemicals should be indicators to prioritize processing of the information and expediting it to the CAD system.
Current and correct information is needed to adequately address risk management issues and to comply with NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Annex A, Section 8, that addresses guidelines for the IC to consider when evaluating risk versus gain.
In this incident, the construction features of the occupancy, such as the bowstring trusses, presence of combustible metals, and access restrictions, would have been critical information to the fire department for fighting a fire at this location. A more complete pre-planning process and/or business plan updating process, involving fire department personnel, dispatch center personnel, and building code officials could have noted this information which may have aided the IC in developing a safer and more effective offensive or defensive strategy. In order to facilitate open communication, fire department personnel, dispatch center personnel, and building and fire code officials should develop a process to effectively update building information and to share this information in a timely manner. The relay of this information could be used to facilitate dynamic risk management and enhanced command and control. (Note: The fire department did a business survey following this incident and found 68 business sites that had combustible metals.)
Recommendation #2: Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in combustible metal fire recognition and tactics.
Discussion: Fire departments often respond to complex or unique hazards which require specialized/advanced knowledge and/or training in dealing with that hazard. Combustible metal fires present unique and dangerous hazards to fire fighters which are not commonly encountered in conventional structure fire fighting operations. The temperatures encountered in a combustible metal fire far exceed those of a structure fire.A block wall near the first explosion had an appearance of brown and black glass, suggesting that temperatures exceeded 3000 degrees F
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 484, Standard for Combustible Metals, states that it is extremely important to conduct a good size-up by identifying the combustible metals involved, the physical state of the metals (e.g., shavings, chips, fine dust, etc.), the location relative to other combustible materials, and the quantity of the product involved. NFPA 484, A.184.108.40.206.3, states that the application of a wet extinguishing agent (particularly water hose streams) accelerates a combustible metal fire and could result in an explosion.
This is due to the water reacting with the combustible metal and giving off highly flammable hydrogen gas and oxygen. This conversion of water into hydrogen has a heat value (British Thermal Units per pound (Btu/lb)) of about 2.8 times that of gasoline, assuming 100 percent conversion of the hydrogen in the water. This equates to flowing 42.8 gallons per minute (gpm) of gasoline on the fire for every 100 gpm of water. NFPA 484, A.220.127.116.11, states that the following agents shall not be used as extinguishing agents on a combustible metal fire because of adverse reactions or ineffectiveness: water, foams, halon, carbon dioxide, nitrogen (except on iron, steel, and alkali metals, excluding lithium), and halon replacement agents.
Thus, in lieu of using a wet extinguishing agent, primarily water, it is recommended that a bulk dry extinguishing agent compatible with the product involved, such as dry sand, dry soda ash, or dry sodium chloride, be used. In most cases for large fires beyond the incipient stage, the application of a dry agent is not feasible. In these cases the best approach is to isolate the material as much as possible, protect exposures, and allow the fire to burn out naturally. Thorough training is a must to properly identify and handle these unique fires. Businesses that manufacture, use or store combustible metals, and fire departments with combustible metals in their jurisdiction, should review Chapter 13 of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 484: Standard on Combustible Metals.12
Combustible metal fire training should only occur in the classroom since combustible metals are not a practical substance to use for live exercises. The excessive temperatures and the unstable nature of combustible metals when burning would put fire fighters in an unnecessary and dangerous situation, if used in live exercises.
In this incident, several fire fighters noticed the unusually bright white hot fire, white sparks, bluish green hues of the fire, and white smoke but did not recognize that this could be indicative of burning combustible metals. The fire department did not suspect that combustible metals were present until after the first explosion and the discovery of the placard indicating oxidizers were in the structure. Once identified, command directed water away from areas of suspected burning combustible metals. Later in the incident, a few concentrated areas remained burning, and copious amounts of water were directed on these areas to extinguish them. This caused a second explosion, in which no one was hurt. The titanium that was involved in the second explosion had developed a protective crust during the fire which was over 2 feet thick and contributed to the shaped charge effect when the molten metal under the protective crust came in contact with the water being applied by the ladderpipes and exploded. The development of the protective crust is a normal occurrence in combustible metal fires which actually limits open burning of the combustible metal and will result in control and extinguishment of the fire, if no actions are taken which disturb the protective crust.
In June, an incident had occurred diagonally across the street at different structure, owned by the same company, where the fire department had a combustible metal fire and was informed by employees not to use water. The fire department updated their training bulletin addressing tactics for combustible metals and removed the use of copious amounts of water.
Recommendation #3: Fire departments should ensure that policies are updated for the proper handling of fires involving combustible metals.
Discussion: The fire department had an outdated policy on the handling of combustible metal fires which primarily called for copious amounts of water to be put on a metal fire. The policy had been based on a training scenario in which burning magnesium Volkswagen engine blocks, when hit with water, would spark, but the water cooled the large mass of magnesium enough to put the fire out. Numerous fire departments across the country remember this training scenario and have not kept up with the increasing and varied uses of combustible metals in everyday products. Manufacturing and recycling facilities for these combustible metal products have been on the rise. This poses a new and different hazard for fire fighters. Combustible metals in smaller pieces and particle sizes burn at much higher temperatures, 5000 degrees F for magnesium to 8500 degrees F for zirconium, and present an explosion hazard when water comes into contact with these burning metals. When applied to burning combustible metals, water and carbon dioxide will disassociate into their base chemical elements. For example, water disassociates into hydrogen and oxygen. The added fuel and oxygen increases burning and causes extreme reactions, such as explosions. An example standard operating procedure (SOP) for the proper handling of combustible metal fires that reflects modern day hazards is provided in
Recommendation #4: Fire departments should ensure that first arriving personnel and fire officers look for occupancy hazard placards on commercial structures during size-up.
Discussion: NFPA 704, Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response, states that all buildings or areas storing, using, or handling hazardous materials should be marked by use of a standardized placard system. The placard system identifies hazard categories for health, flammability, reactivity and special hazards, including water reactivity and oxidizers.
When conducting a size-up at commercial structures, fire officers should look for such placards. Placard locations should be located at or near entrances and unobstructed by landscaping, fencing, etc.
In this incident, placards existed at the A and C/D corner of the structure. However, they were not identified until after the explosion. The late night hour, poor lighting, angled corners of structure, and fire attack from doorways other than the front entrance may have contributed to first arriving personnel and fire officers not seeing and acting upon the information on the placard.
Recommendation #5: Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters communicate fireground observations to incident command.
Discussion: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System, Section 6.3 Emergency Traffic states: To enable responders to be notified of an emergency condition or situation when they are assigned to an area designated as immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH), at least one responder on each crew or company shall be equipped with a portable radio and each responder on the crew or company shall be equipped with either a portable radio or another means of electronic communication.The U.S. Fire Administration report, Voice Radio Communications Guide for the Fire Service, provides an overview of radio communication issues involving the fire service. Effective fireground radio communication is an important tool to ensure fireground command and control as well as helping to enhance fire fighter safety and health. It is every fire fighter and company officer’s responsibility to ensure radios are properly used. Ensuring appropriate radio use involves both taking personal responsibility (to have your radio, having it on, and on the correct channel) and a crew-based responsibility to ensure that the other members of your crew (subordinates, peers, and supervisor) are doing so as well.
Receiving interior/exterior status updates is critical to the safety of fire fighters on the incident, rescue/recovery efforts, and overall control of the incident. The decision to commit interior fire fighting personnel or establishing a collapse/hazard zone for exterior fire fighting personnel should be made on a case-by-case basis with proper risk-benefit decisions being made by the incident commander.
The fireground is very dynamic, and conditions can either improve or deteriorate based on fire suppression activities, and available resources, and most importantly assessments/size-ups of the incident are necessary to detect a change on the fireground.
In this incident, several fire fighters noticed the unusually bright white hot fire, white sparks, bluish green hues of the fire, and white smoke (all potential signs of combustible metal involvement), but did not communicate it to command.
Recommendation #6: Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters wear all personal protective equipment when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health environment.
Discussion: NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program states, “the fire department shall provide each member with protective clothing and protective equipment that is designed to provide protection from the hazards to which the member is likely to be exposed and is suitable for the tasks that the member is expected to perform…protective clothing and protective equipment shall be used whenever a member is exposed or potentially exposed to the hazards for which the protective clothing (and equipment) is provided.”
NFPA 1971 Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting has established minimum requirements for structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements designed to provide fire fighting personnel limited protection from thermal, physical, environmental, and bloodborne pathogen hazards encountered during structural fire fighting operations.
These requirements will assist in protecting firefighters, but only if they wear the PPE as recommended by the manufacturer. The potential for injury at all incidents exists when fire fighters do not wear the full PPE ensemble, including gloves.
In this incident, numerous fire fighters did not don their facepiece and/or wear hoods or gloves. The potential for unknown toxic gases and flying debris as evidenced by the 2 explosions makes wearing full PPE critical for protecting fire fighters from immediate and chronic hazards. If gloves and hoods had been worn, the hand and ear burn injuries would have been less severe or perhaps totally eliminated.
Recommendation #7: Fire departments should ensure that an Incident Safety Officer is dispatched on first alarm of commercial structure fires.
Discussion: According to NFPA 1561 Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System, “The incident commander shall have overall authority for management of the incident and the incident commander shall ensure that adequate safety measures are in place.” This shall include overall responsibility for the safety and health of all personnel and for other persons operating within the incident management system. While the incident commander is in overall command at the scene, certain functions must be delegated to ensure adequate scene management is accomplished.According to NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, “as incidents escalate in size and complexity, the incident commander shall divide the incident into tactical-level management units and assign an incident safety officer (ISO) to assess the incident scene for hazards or potential hazards.” These standards indicate that the incident commander is in overall command at the scene, but acknowledge that oversight of all operations is difficult. On-scene fire fighter health and safety is best preserved by delegating the function of safety and health oversight to the ISO. Additionally, the incident commander relies upon fire fighters and the ISO to relay feedback on fireground conditions in order to make timely, informed decisions regarding risk versus gain and offensive-versus-defensive operations. The safety of all personnel on the fireground is directly impacted by clear, concise, and timely communications among mutual aid fire departments, sector command, the ISO, and the incident commander. NFPA 1521 Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer defines the role of the ISO at an incident scene and identifies duties such as recon of the fireground and reporting pertinent information back to the incident commander; ensuring the department’s accountability system is in place and operational; monitoring radio transmissions and identifying barriers to effective communications; and ensuring established safety zones, collapse zones, hot zones, and other designated hazard areas are communicated to all members on scene.
Larger fire departments may assign one or more full-time staff officers as incident safety officers who respond to working fires. In smaller departments, every officer should be prepared to function as the ISO when assigned by the incident commander. The presence of an incident safety officer does not diminish the responsibility of individual fire fighters and fire officers for their own safety and the safety of others. The ISO adds a higher level of attention and expertise to help the fire fighters and fire officers. The ISO must have particular expertise in analyzing safety hazards and must know the particular uses and limitations of protective equipment.
In this incident, for the size of the fire department and responsible coverage area, there is an insufficient number of incident safety officers (ISO) and/or qualified personnel (certified to NFPA 1521) to act as an ISO. The ISO should be of a rank worthy of the significant responsibility.
Recommendation #8: Fire departments should ensure that collapse/hazard zones are established on the fireground.
Discussion: During fire operations, two rules exist about structural collapse: (1) the potential for structural failure always exists during and after a fire, and (2) a collapse danger zone must be established.
A collapse zone is an area around and away from a structure in which debris might land if a structure fails. The collapse zone area should be at least 1½ times the height of the building—the height of the building plus an additional allowance for debris scatter. For example, if the wall was 20 feet high, the collapse zone would be established at least 30 feet away from the wall. In this incident, the structure was approximately 18 feet high at the top of the parapet wall, and the collapse zone extended at least 27 feet from the structure.
Fire fighters must recognize the dangers and take immediate safety precautions if factors indicate the potential for a building collapse. An external load—such as a parapet wall, steeple, overhanging porch, awning, sign, or large electrical service connections—reacting on a wall weakened by fire conditions may cause the wall to collapse. Other factors include fuel loads, building damage, renovation work, pre-existing deterioration as well as deterioration caused by the fire, support systems, and truss construction.
Whenever these contributing factors are identified, all persons operating inside the structure must be evacuated immediately and a collapse zone should be established around the perimeter. Once a collapse zone has been established, the area should be clearly marked and monitored to make certain that no fire fighters enter the danger zone. Positioning companies at the corners of the building is usually safer than a frontal attack. In this incident, a collapse zone should have been established given the age of the structure and deteriorating fire conditions.
Recommendation #9: Vendors/Training Organizations should develop and offer a training program on combustible metal fires.
Discussion: There are a limited amount of training materials/programs that exist on combustible metal fires. There have been a small number of presentations and workshops conducted at fire conferences over the years but nothing offered by outside training organizations that pertains to what the fire service needs to know. Programs should be developed to highlight the characteristics of a combustible metal fire, tactics, and strategies for handling them.
Apparent delays with establishing a sustained water supply via the building standpipe system are being published in the Asheville Citizens-Times.com today. Direct link HERE
Published reports are indicating possible problems with water delivery to the standpipe system designed to supply water from a street hydrant system to the fifth floor of a burning medical office building likely delayed firefighters as they battled the deadly blaze, according to Fire Department radio transmissions.
Nearly 25 minutes passed from the time the first trucks left their stations about 12:30 p.m. Thursday until a company reported they were finally putting water on the blaze at 445 Biltmore Center from a ladder truck.
Typical Standpipe Stairwell Valve Connection
Firefighters repeatedly made references to a lack of water, even as they reached the fourth floor and made their way toward flames one floor above according to same publication. They are referencing transcripts from fireground radio transmissions. HERE.
Asheville NC Fatal FF Mayday Audio 7/28/11; The audio has been edited and most of the Mayday audio from the FF has been edited out
The lack of timely application of water as a suppression agent to disrupt the progressing fire growth and magnitude could contribute towards increased fire severity based upon the fire load package and heat release rate and likely contribute towards untenable interior conditions in the absence of a vent path and confinement of the escalating products of combustion due to fire growth.
Refer to the CommandSafety.com posting HEREwith a typical floor layout plan and interior photos
Reports indicating delays and challenges in gaining access into various rooms and locations are also being reported whcih should be expected based upon typical medical office layouts and configurations.
Vent path considerations, when addressing interior suppression operations, ventilation profiles and avenues and fire and heat propagation all have considerations and applications when working a seated fire within a compartment fire in a commercial occupancy
Refer to the following links for some further insights on the aforementioned elements and factors;
NIST Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions: Laboratory Experiments
A series of experiments was conducted in our Large Fire Laboratory to examine the impact of wind control curtains and externally applied hose streams on a wind driven fire. The results from these experiments will allow us to better understand the fire dynamics within a structure and provide guidance as to the important measurements needed in the future experiments in a high-rise on Governor’s Island in New York City.
Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions Report, HERE
A multiple 4-alarm fire took command of a medical office suite located in a five story non-sprinklered Medical Center Office Building in the City of Asheville, North Carolina on Thursday July 28, 2011.
The mid-day fire was reported on the fifth floor at 445 Biltmore Center medical offices and was found extending from exterior perimeter windows as arriving companies went to work.
According to published reports, companies encountered heavy smoke and heat conditions. As initial suppression operations were being conducted, coordinated search and rescue operations were assigned and being conducted. AFD Capt. Jeff Bowen was among the first alarm assignment of firefighters to reach the building’s fire floor as unabated fire development and growth caused the perimeter windows to fail causing fire extension to the exterior and the induction of fresh air onto the fire floor. The intensity of the flame front and extension was evident as photographed out fifth-floor windows.
During primary search and rescue operations, approximately 45 minutes into the operations Captain Bowen transmitted a mayday for reasons undetermined at the present time. Heavy smoke and pronounced heat conditions filled that top floor, where he and fellow firefighter Jay Bettencourt were conducting search efforts. Command quickly directed efforts to manage the mayday with companies deployed to support the RIT and mayday. There were reported sixty fire fighters assigned the suppression and rescue operations for the multiple alarms. About 200 patients and staff were in the building at the time of the fire.
Preliminary information suggests that Captain Bowen went into cardiac arrest after succumbing to intense smoke and heat, the city said in a statement released on Friday. Firefighter Bettencourt was transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., for treatment. He was listed in critical condition Thursday night. Nine other firefighters were taken to the hospital in connection with the blaze. Six remained hospitalized late Thursday. Three were treated and released, according to Mission spokeswoman Merrell Gregory and published reports. Captain Bowen was a thirteen year fire service veteran and was a husband and father of three children. He was 37 years of age.
The Building comprising the occupancy at 445 Biltmore Center medical offices was occupied by the Cancer Care of WNC which had its laboratory and information and technology offices on the fifth floor.
The building was constructed in 1982 and was not required by codes to have a sprinkler system at the time of occupancy. Since that time, state code provisions have changed that mandate sprinkler system protection. There were no requirements for retrofitting according to published reports.
The five story building with non-combustible construction classification consisted of approximate 120,000 square feet of space with approximately 20,000 SF per floor level.
Without understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management, company level supervision and task level competencies…You are derelict and negligent and "not "everyone may be going home".
Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past conventional construction; risk assessment, strategies and tactics must change to address these new rules of structural fire engagement. There is a need to gain the building construction knowledge and insights and to change and adjust operating profiles in order to safe guard companies, personnel and team compositions. It's all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and the art and science of firefighting, Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety (Bk=F2S)
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