Fire swept through a 200-by-300-foot sprinklered metal warehouse, destroying millions of dollars' worth of boxed furniture and challenging Houston, TX, firefighters to protect the company's adjoining 100,000-square-foot building housing its showroom, offices and a smaller warehouse. Gallery...
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Fire swept through a 200-by-300-foot sprinklered metal warehouse, destroying millions of dollars' worth of boxed furniture and challenging Houston, TX, firefighters to protect the company's adjoining 100,000-square-foot building housing its showroom, offices and a smaller warehouse.
Gallery Furniture reported the fire just after 8:30 P.M. on Thursday, May 21, 2009. The Houston Fire Department (HFD) sent a routine "heavy box," a first-alarm assignment of four engines, two ladder companies, two district chiefs, a safety officer and several EMS units to the scene at 6006 North Freeway (Interstate 45 North) between Tidwell and Parker roads, about seven miles north of downtown.
Engine 58 was the first to arrive from quarters, about two-thirds of a mile away, reporting heavy fire at the northeast corner of the warehouse. A light northeasterly breeze kept smoke away from the apparatus, yet pushed it deeper into the warehouse. The incident commander, District 31 Chief Thomas Ponce, established his command post on Rosamond Street (the A side) at the north end of the warehouse within eyesight of Engine 58. He quickly summoned a second alarm as he saw fire spreading rapidly through the large building.
The furniture showroom next door was still open for business when the fire started. Showroom employees had to corral dozens of customers inside and get them out to the parking lot safely. Despite the enormity of that lot in front of the business, numerous parked cars made fire apparatus access difficult at first. Spectators from the freeway and even news media trucks continued to enter the store's parking lot at the very same time fire trucks were trying to get into position to protect the showroom. Soon, police had that chaotic situation under control. They cleared the lot of onlookers, and an HFD ladder truck was positioned near the showroom on its west (D) side.
District 34 Chief Joe Clark, the second chief officer on the first alarm, was assigned to monitor the south end of the warehouse where he observed thick smoke billowing from a dozen overhead doors. He radioed Ponce his suggestion to mount a strictly defensive attack. Ladder pipes were set up on three sides of the burning warehouse (off Rosamond, Werner and New Haven streets), but the most critical exposure, the huge showroom, separated from the blazing warehouse by only a covered walkway, had to be protected with handlines and ground monitors.
Controlling Fire Spread
Arriving on the second alarm, Ladder 74 was positioned on New Haven Street at the south end of the warehouse. Beneath the smoke pouring from the loading dock, flames could be seen progressing toward the south end. Before Ladder 74 could place its ladder pipe into operation, that entire end of the warehouse went up in flames so intense that they nearly burned the truck parked more than 150 feet away from the building.
"We had to hose down the truck first before we finished setting up the ladder pipe because it was getting so hot," said Ladder 74's officer, Senior Captain Glenn Pangarakis.
Once supplied with water, Ladder 74's aerial moved in to battle the flames. The truck was well-positioned. To the left of the loading dock doors was the showroom building, but in between was a pedestrian door that led to a long walkway between the two buildings. The aerial had a perfect shot to get water into the walkway area between the two structures.
The fight to save the showroom also used ground streams in that walkway. The first engine on the third alarm, Engine 11, stretched a 2½-inch line inside that walkway and put a ground monitor on the end to protect the southern half of the showroom building, which also included a smaller warehouse full of mattresses. Once Ladder 74 had the bulk of the heavy flames knocked down, that company trained its aerial there, too.