On The Job: Michigan

  On Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Harvard Plaza office building in Southfield, MI. Early recognition of possible backdraft conditions prevented injuries to firefighters when a backdraft did occur. Recognizing that water...


  On Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, a four-alarm fire destroyed the Harvard Plaza office building in Southfield, MI. Early recognition of possible backdraft conditions prevented injuries to firefighters when a backdraft did occur. Recognizing that water supply would be an issue during a major fire...


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Rowley requested additional mutual aid as the fire continued to spread. At 1:17, Bloomfield Township Fire Department was requested to send an additional engine to the scene. Engine 3, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded with a crew of four. Bloomfield Engine 3 arrived on scene at 1:26 and was positioned on side D. This engine was supplied by Southfield Engine 4, which was hooked onto a hydrant at the A/D corner. Engine 3 placed its deck gun into operation and firefighters deployed two 2½-inch attack lines into operation on side D.

Farmington Hills was requested to send an additional tower ladder to the scene at 1:54 P.M. Farmington Hills responded with a 75-foot TeleSquirt with a 1,500-gpm pump and a crew of four. This tower ladder arrived on scene at 2:15 and was set up on side A for aerial master-stream operations. This unit was supplied by a five-inch line from a hydrant on the opposite side of Southfield Road. At 2:30, the West Bloomfield Fire Department was requested to send the county light-and-power pod unit, consisting of a 10,000-watt generator and lights to the scene.

Rowley declared the fire under control at 5:30 P.M. All mutual aid units were released by 7 P.M. The last Southfield units left the scene at 8:50 P.M.

Conclusion

Forty-six firefighters operated eight engines and three aerial devices at the scene. Six handlines, four portable monitors, four deck guns and six aerial master streams were used to battle the fire. Firefighters used nearly 1.4 million gallons of water to extinguish the fire. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries. The weather at the time of the fire was overcast and cold with 15- to 20-mph winds from the west.

A 48-hour investigation by the Southfield Fire Department Fire Prevention Division determined that the fire was caused by a faulty electrical charging unit. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million to the building and $1.5 million to the contents. Initial positioning of Engine 3 and Tower 5 placed these two units in danger when the fire spread out of control.

Successes at the incident included:

  • The early recognition of possible backdraft conditions prevented any injuries to firefighters when the backdraft occurred, blowing out entrance doors
  • Training with the use of thermal imaging cameras enabled the interior crew to search more of the building before being withdrawn
  • Incident commanders knew that water supply would be an issue during a major fire
  • Early notification of the water company enabled increased water supply and training on relay pumping operations ensured the adequate supply of water for prolonged master-stream use
  • Recognizing the need and calling for mutual aid early provided the necessary resources when needed

JAY K. BRADISH/IFPA, Firehouse® news editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and fire photographer for more than 25 years.