On The Job: Florida

Pasco County, FL, Fire Rescue met one of the biggest challenges in the history of the department on Nov. 24, 2010, the evening before Thanksgiving – a 42½-hour operation, the longest continuous operation at a building fire in the department’s...


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Once one of the damaged risers could be shut off, the increase in water pressure allowed another master stream to be operated on side A. A breach was made in the concrete wall near where several explosions and a large amount of fire could be seen throughout the night. The application of this second ground monitor master stream knocked down most of the visible fire on the original fire floor.

During the night, fire emitted from side A several times and impinged on the metal roof breezeway, causing concern for the integrity of that structure. Command directed that personnel and apparatus not be positioned under this roof structure. This limited the access to side A, where the only openings into the fire area existed.

Signs of structural collapse were showing on the upper floors of the fire building. The captain on the aerial company advised that the roof operations were not safe. Ventilation for the fire building could be accomplished only by opening three overhead doors that were on side C at the third-floor level.

Division D was created and assigned a separate radio tactical group for its operations. Two engine companies and additional manpower were assigned to this area. Early in the operation, the first floor was monitored for conditions. Hoselines were placed at the top of stairwells to stop any potential spread of fire into this building. Command was notified of extreme heat and increased smoke on the upper floors of this exposure, but no fire could be found. Not being able to place crews inside the building hampered efforts as crews fought to keep the fire contained to one area of the building.

Command declared the fire under control around 7:30 the next morning. At that time, several companies were released, including the mutual aid aerial operating on side C and the third aerial. This announcement would prove to be premature.

 

Welcome Relief

Crews from the oncoming shift began to relieve those who had been on the scene all night. Command was transferred to battalion chiefs who were also coming on duty. A full report was given by staff who had worked the incident since the call was received. While it is not uncommon for crews working an incident at shift change, it is rare that the operation had been going on all night and would continue for an extended time.

The fire had been contained to the original fire building throughout the night and thought to be under control. Firefighters would soon find that the unique configuration and changed occupancy of the complex would exacerbate the problem of stopping the fire.

As the new shift was doing a size-up, smoke from the upper floors increased significantly. Crews were investigating the source when areas of the roof ignited. The one remaining aerial was on side A and its stream could not reach this new fire area. Moving this apparatus was time consuming, and a large area of the roof was burning by the time a fire stream could be applied from side C.

ZFD Engine 1 (aerial) was recalled and positioned at the A/D intersection. Exposure D again became a concern as the roof of the fire building was now in flames near this exposure. With two aerial streams flowing, it took close to an hour to knock down the roof fire. Simultaneously, an interior crew reached the fire area inside the building by breaching a wall from the adjoining D exposure on the second floor. This is when it was discovered that there was indeed a large amount of material stored on the second floor, which was similar to a mezzanine. This area was hidden from view from the crew operating at the first-floor level.

This attack crew determined that the second floor was loaded with products from the original business, including pallets of cardboard and material used for incense sticks. This is the area that the occupant and owner had both assured firefighters was vacant. Once this material ignited, the fire spread to an enclosed stairwell leading to the third floor. Enough heat was generated that the door melted, letting heat and smoke penetrate this area. Hours into the incident, the heat from this stairwell ignited the roof material.

The original design of the building was that the third floor was a “cold storage” area and had heavy insulation in the roof and doors. This material ignited the next morning, creating a different area of fire that could only be fought using aerial streams from two ladder companies.