On The Job: NEW YORK

  Firefighters in Dunkirk, NY, faced numerous challenges — among them, insufficient manpower on the initial alarm, a municipal water system that could not meet the incident's flow demands, overtaxed communications, heavy snow and rapidly forming...


  Firefighters in Dunkirk, NY, faced numerous challenges — among them, insufficient manpower on the initial alarm, a municipal water system that could not meet the incident's flow demands, overtaxed communications, heavy snow and rapidly forming ice — when they responded to a downtown...


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Firefighters in Dunkirk, NY, faced numerous challenges — among them, insufficient manpower on the initial alarm, a municipal water system that could not meet the incident's flow demands, overtaxed communications, heavy snow and rapidly forming ice — when they responded to a downtown commercial fire that destroyed the town's historic Masonic Temple building.

The five-alarm fire on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010, was the largest fire to strike Dunkirk since 1953. The four-story, Type III (ordinary construction) building was built in 1908 and contained a full basement. The wooden deck roof was covered with a combination of rubber and rolled asphalt roofing materials. The building was 50 feet high in the front and 60 feet high in the rear and measured 140 by 90 feet. Each floor contained approximately 12,600 square feet of usable space.

The first floor contained 6,000 square feet for Chautauqua Works (an agency that serves job seekers, workers and employers), 6,000 square feet for a doctor's office and 600 feet for the main entrance. The second floor had 4,000 square feet of office space and the Baptist Church occupied 8,000 square feet. The third floor contained 4,000 square feet of office space and 8,000 square feet for a karate studio. The fourth floor contained 4,000 square feet of office space and a dance studio occupied 8,000 square feet. The only fire detection system in the building was in the doctor's office on the first floor. The building was not sprinklered.

Initial Conditions

The Dunkirk Fire Department was dispatched at 5:16 P.M. to a commercial fire alarm at Dr. Hyder Alam's office on the first floor, southern section, of the Masonic Temple at 323–325 Central Ave. Engines 1 and 3, both 1,250-gpm pumpers, and Engine 4, a 1,500-gpm pumper, Ladder 1, a 110-foot aerial, and Rescue 1 responded with a total of five firefighters under the command of Lieutenant Matthew Hanlon.

Arriving firefighters did not observe any indications of a fire from the exterior of the building. Engine 1 was positioned at the A/D corner of the building on Central Avenue and fed by a 20-foot, six-inch hydrant supply hoseline. The hydrant was capable of supplying between 500 and 1,000 gpm. Engine 3 was positioned on side C and supplied with a 300-foot, five-inch hydrant supply line. This hydrant was capable of supplying between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm. Engine 4 was positioned south of the fire building on Central Avenue. Ladder 1 was positioned in front of the building on Central Avenue. Rescue 1 was positioned on Central Avenue, south of the fire building.

As firefighters entered the main entrance, they were met by four adults and 32 children, ages 5 to 8, exiting the building via the main stairway. These individuals had been in the dance studio on the fourth floor and began evacuating the building when they smelled smoke. As firefighters conducted their investigation on the first floor, they found fire in the Chautauqua Works offices in the north half of the first floor. Heavy fire involvement was located in the rear (side C) and in the enclosed ceiling spaces.

The initial attack was made with a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line from Engine 1. Another 200-foot, 2½-inch line was stretched into the building from Engine 1 as a backup line. Firefighters placed a 150-foot, 2½-inch attack line into operation on side C from Engine 3. Off-duty Dunkirk firefighters began arriving on scene at 5:30 P.M. Hanlon transferred command to Lieutenant Michael Edwards when he arrived on the scene at 5:31.

Located on the B side of the fire building was the One Liberty Square building at 335 Central Ave. This was a two-story, concrete-block building with a steel truss, wood deck, tar and gravel roof that was attached to the fire building. This building housed offices for the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services. At 319 Central Ave. on side D of the fire building was the North County Office Building, a three-story building of ordinary construction. Numerous Chautauqua County offices were in this building.

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