On Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, a three-alarm fire in downtown Tyler, TX, destroyed one building and damaged three historic structures. The two-story building that was destroyed was of Type III ordinary construction and built in the early 1900s. The 80-by-100-foot building had a roof with rolled asphalt roofing. Firewalls separated the building from adjoining buildings on each side. There were no fire protection or detection systems in the building.
The Tyler Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at 113 North Spring St. at 7:24 P.M. Engines 1, 4, 6 and 7, all 1,250-gpm pumpers; Ladder 1, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; District Chief 1 Terry Rozell and Safety Officer/Investigator Paul Findley responded with a total of 18 personnel.
First-arriving units saw smoke seeping from around the second-floor windows and found the building heavily charged with smoke. Engine 7 and Ladder 1 were positioned in front of the building. Engine 7 laid a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Spring Street to supply Ladder 1. Engines 4 and 6 were assigned to the rear of the building. Engine 4 laid a 400-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at Erwin and Fannin streets. Engine 1 was staged at Ferguson and Spring streets. Firefighters stretched a 1¾-inch line and a 2½-inch line to the front of the building from Ladder 1. Ladder 1 firefighters advanced the 1¾-inch line to the second floor using stairs on the exterior of the building. Firefighters at the rear stretched two 1¾-inch lines and a 2½-inch line from Engine 6 to locations at the rear of the building.
Rozell quickly requested a second alarm. Engines 5 and 10, both 1,250-gpm pumpers, and District Chief 2 James Pike responded. Engine 10 laid a 300-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at Spring and Ferguson streets to the front of the building and placed its deck gun into operation. Engine 5's crew was assigned as a rapid intervention team and staged at the command post.
At 7:32 P.M., Rozell asked for a third alarm. Engine 2, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Ladder 2, operating with a medium rescue, as the Ladder 2 apparatus was in the shop for maintenance. Twenty-one off-duty firefighters and Fire Chief Neal Franklin, Assistant Chief David Schlottach and District Chief Joey Wiggins were also requested to respond to the scene. Engine 2 laid a 600-foot, five-inch line from Locust Street to the rear of the building. Firefighters placed two 200-foot, 2½-inch lines into operation from this engine.
The crew from Ladder 1 operating on the second floor reported that conditions were deteriorating and that an interior attack was not feasible. Rozell ordered all personnel to evacuate the structure at 7:34 P.M. A personnel accountability report (PAR) was taken and all personnel were accounted for before defensive operations began.
Ladder 1 placed its ladder pipe into operation at the front and Engine 6 put its deck gun into operation at the rear. Engine 7 laid a 600-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant at Locust and Spring streets to Ferguson and Spring streets and supplied a ground monitor with two 50-foot, 2½-inch lines. All handlines deployed during the initial attack were withdrawn from the collapse zone and placed into operation in a defensive mode.
Mutual aid from seven departments was also requested on the third alarm. Responding with 32 firefighters were Lindale Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Ladder 1, a 110-foot aerial ladder; Dixie Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper; Bullard Volunteer Fire Department Ladder 29, a 100-foot aerial ladder; Chapel Hill Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper; Noonday Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper, medium rescue and air trailer; Flint Gresham Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper and medium rescue; and Winona Volunteer Fire Department Engine 1, a 1,250-gpm pumper.
Lindale Ladder 1 was positioned on the northwest side of the fire building and set up for aerial master stream operations. Lindale Engine 1's crew was assigned as the second rapid intervention team and staged at the command post. Dixie Engine 1 laid a 400-foot, five-inch line from Lindale Ladder 1 to a hydrant at the intersection of Broadway and Ferguson streets. Dixie Engine 1 hooked onto the hydrant with a five-inch line and pumped to Lindale Ladder 1. The crew from Dixie Engine 1 was assigned as a relief crew at the rear of the building.
Bullard Ladder 29 was positioned at the southwest corner of the building and set up for aerial master stream operations. Tyler Engine 5 laid a 300-foot, five-inch line from Bullard Ladder 29 to a hydrant on Erwin Street and hooked onto the hydrant with a five-inch line and pumped to Ladder 29. Crews from Flint Greshman and Noonday were staged at the command post and were rotated to relieve firefighters on the fireground. Winona Engine 1 was assigned to stand by at Tyler Station 4 and Chapel Hill Engine 1 was staged at Tyler Station 1.
Defensive operations using three aerial devices, two deck guns, one portable monitor and numerous handlines controlled and contained the fire. Rozell declared the fire under control at 12:30 A.M. on Tuesday. Mutual aid units were released beginning at 12:30 A.M.
Seventy firefighters operated eight engines, three aerials and one rescue at the scene of the fire. Seven hydrants on the municipal water system supplied 1.4 million gallons of water for firefighting operations. The last Tyler equipment left the scene three days after the initial call. One firefighter was treated for injuries. The temperature was 50 degrees and there were calm winds at the time of the fire.
The Tyler Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted a five-day, origin-and-cause investigation. After a systematic fire scene examination, inspection of the physical evidence and considering witness observations, it is believed that the area of origin was in the basement of 113 North Spring St., an area that was occupied by a law office.
The fire extended north into the law offices at 115 North Spring and an architectural firm at 117 and 119 North Spring. A fire wall separating 119 North Spring from a space to the north once used as a theater helped slow the fire's progress. A fire wall on the south side of the law office at 113 North Spring helped contain the fire and limit the damage to the law office at 111 North Spring. The cause is undetermined at this time. The estimated damage to the buildings and contents is $3 million.
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.