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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Mutual Aid

Edwards requested mutual aid from the East Dunkirk and Fredonia fire departments at 5:34. Fredonia, a combination department, responded with Truck 18, a 118-foot articulating platform with a 1,250-gpm pump and five firefighters. East Dunkirk sent Engine 113, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and 10 firefighters.

At 5:35, interior firefighters were evacuated from the building as an exterior attack was initiated from side C, near the D corner, with a 150-foot, 2½-inch attack line from Engine 3. At approximately 5:40, crews again entered the building and resumed the interior attack. Fredonia Truck 18 was positioned at the A/B corner of the building. East Dunkirk Engine 113 was positioned at the C/D corner and supplied with a 600-foot, five-inch hydrant supply line. This hydrant was capable of supplying between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm. Firefighters stretched a 200-foot, 2½-inch attack line from Engine 113 to the C/D corner to help protect the D-side exposure.

Dunkirk Engine 2, a 1,000-gpm pumper, arrived at 5:45 P.M. and was staged near the B/C corner on Lark Street. Captain Al Loeb arrived on scene at 5:46 P.M. and assumed command of the incident. Loeb requested additional mutual aid at 5:49. The West Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department responded with Engines 122 and 123, both 1,750-gpm pumpers, and nine firefighters. The Sheridan Volunteer Fire Department dispatched Engine 161, a 1,000-gpm pumper, and 10 firefighters.

Defensive Operations

Loeb ordered all interior crews to evacuate the building at 6:02 P.M., 46 minutes into the incident. At this time, fire had spread to all four floors and the crew operating on the first floor was encountering heavy fire conditions. It was unknown whether there was fire in the basement. The crew operating on the second floor reported heavy fire conditions at the rear of the building and they were unable to get a line on the fire.

There was not enough interior manpower to contain the fire and search crews were unable to safely continue search operations due to the heavy fire conditions. Most of the fire building had been searched and it was unlikely that any viable civilians were left in the building. All firefighters were accounted for after building evacuation. Initial defensive operations were begun using the two 2½-inch lines from Engine 3 and Engine 113. Engine 3 also placed its deck gun into operation.

At 6:03, Loeb requested mutual aid from the Westfield Volunteer Fire Department. Engine 292, a 1,500-gpm pumper, Engine 293, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Ladder 291, a 75-foot aerial with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded with 10 firefighters.

Fredonia Truck 18 was repositioned to the C/D corner of the building, Dunkirk Engine 2 was positioned on Central Avenue, south of the fire building, and West Dunkirk Engine 123 was positioned at the intersection of West Third Street and Central Avenue and hooked onto a hydrant with 20 feet of six-inch supply line. Engine 123 supplied Dunkirk Engine 1 with a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant capable of supplying 1,000 to 1,500 gpm. Sheridan Engine 161 laid a 400-foot, four-inch supply line from Truck 18 to a hydrant on Central Avenue north of Third Street. Engine 161 hooked on to the hydrant with a 20-foot, six-inch supply line and pumped to Truck 18. EMS Ambulances A2 and A60, both from WCA (a private ambulance firm) set up on Central Avenue north of the fire building. A staging area was established on Central Avenue, one block south of the fire scene.

Command Structure

Loeb made the following command assignments: Dunkirk Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom was assigned as safety officer; Chautauqua County Director of Emergency Operations Julius Leone as logistics officer; Chautauqua County Second Battalion Coordinator Richard Cole as staging officer; Lieutenant Gary Katta as Sector A command; Lieutenant Michael Edwards as Sector A/B command; Lieutenant Matthew Hanlon as Sector B/C command; Lieutenant Jim Hyland as Sector C/D command; and Assistant Director of Emergency Operations Bob Franks as water supply officer.