On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, a four-alarm fire destroyed a 50-year-old bowling center in downtown Strasburg in Lancaster County, PA. The 180-by-200-foot, block building with a builtup flat roof was constructed in 1961. Later, in the mid-1970s, the flat roof, which was left in place, was covered with a...
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• Overhead electric lines. High-voltage electric lines ran in front of the building on the A side, which prevented safe setup of aerial operations. The power company had to drop the entire grid to make it safe for operations. This dropped the power to the water well pumps at the reservoir for the hydrant system. The power company was never able to properly ground the wires to ensure all the power was off.
• Communications. Water-supply operations were assigned to a radio frequency used for siren activation, causing disruption of communications.
Among the successes noted were:
• Water supply. Knowing the limited supply on the municipal water system, command established two tanker shuttles.
• Pre-planning. Numerous tours of the building gave firefighters a thorough understanding of the construction and what challenges they faced. The possibility of an early collapse of the bowstring truss roof over the flat roof and the limited water supply were among the challenges identified.
• Knowledge of the signs of backdraft and flashover. Firefighters identified signs of potential flashover and exited the building. The building flashed over in minutes.
• Rural water supply training. Drills have been conducted to develop the best methods of moving large volumes of water over extended periods.