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
Firefighter Brian Carroll reflects on the 2011 Arlington Street Fire and Cold Storage Fire of 1999.
Firefighter Brian Carroll was trapped in the basement of 49 Arlington St. after the second-floor of the three-decker collapsed underneath him and his partner on Rescue 1. He thought his close friend was OK. Firefighter Carroll lay trapped and didn’t learn until after he was freed that Firefighter Davies had died.
“What happened to my brother, the three-decker collapsed in a way no one could predict,” Robert Davies said. “Certainly I think it serves as a lesson going forward, and even if it saves one life going forward, then at least something good came out of it.”
Firefighter Davies, who was 43 when he died, has a son, Jon D. Davies Jr., in the department now as a firefighter.
From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette; A cruel month for Worcester firefighters HERE
NIOSH REPORT Career Fire Fighter Dies and Another is Injured Following Structure Collapse at a Triple Decker Residential Fire – Massachusetts:HERE
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
A fire in single family residential occupancy in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park section on May 29th produced these dramatic occurrences: Serious injury to a woman and her grandchild, a firefighter being trapped, and good Samaritans lending a hand.
About 12:30 a.m., Chicago fire officials and police responded to a fire in a one-and-a-half story single family home in the 4200 block of West Hadden Avenue on the West Side, according to police and fire officials. A 2-11 Alarm and EMS Plan 1 were called for the fire, said Fire Media Affairs spokesman Chief Joe Roccasalva. The fire was located in a 1 1/2 story wood frame bungalow (SFR) dwelling. According to published reports, the firefighter fell through a burning stairwell when it collapsed and was briefly trapped. He was quickly located and extricated with minor injuries following the mayday alert
4246 West Hadden Ave
Chicago Sun-Times, HERE and Breaking News Report, HERE and ABC News7 TV, HERE
Typical Circa Stairway Construction
Don’t forget to check out the 2011 Safety and Survival Week focus on;
2011 Focus: Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer & Command Preparedness, HERE
Residential Fire and Floor Compromise Norwichbulletin.com
A Taftville (CT) Firefigher was caught in a compromised floor condition while fighting a fire in a residential occupancy on Friday morning April 15th in Norwich, CT., resulting in a mayday and RIT deloyment to support the extrication and firefighter removal from the interior.
Published reports from Theday.com indicated a fire fighter issued a mayday after his foot plunged through the floor up to his knee, according to according to Taftville (CT) Fire Chief Tim Jencks.
Two other fire fighters held him up so he wouldn’t fall through any farther, while several others rushed over to help.
A half dozen fire fighters worked to untangle wires that had dropped down from the sagging ceiling and to extricate the fire fighter from the damaged floor; the two who were holding him up also started to break through the floor, Jencks said.
Mutual aid from the Yantic Fire Company as well as the rapid intervention team from the Mohegan Sun Tribal department responded.
The single family residential occupancy was constructed in 1932 and was a four bedroom colonial design with 1,965 square feet of space. The floor assembly was conventional full dimensional wood floor joist construction.
Two Story Four Bedroom Colonial, Circa 1932
Alpha Side Post Fire
Aerial View from Bing.com
Here’s some diagrams and images for common floor joist assembly systems Circa 1932
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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