On The Job: WASHINGTON

On Thursday, July 24, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed a portion of a commercial building in historic downtown Spokane. The three-story structure, known as the Joel Building, was a compilation of five buildings joined together, all with a single flat...


On Thursday, July 24, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed a portion of a commercial building in historic downtown Spokane. The three-story structure, known as the Joel Building, was a compilation of five buildings joined together, all with a single flat roof constructed of layers of wood board...


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Ladder 1 was positioned on side Delta and its crew from Ladder 1 was eventually assigned to interior operations, where the members opened up the first floor in two locations. First, an access hole was cut in the main hallway and a 2½-inch line from Engine 4 equipped with a Bresnan distributor was lowered into the basement. This line was passed off to Engine 3's crew. Ladder 1's crew opened another hole in the floor in Dorian's office area near the front window of the building and placed another 2½-inch line from Engine 4 with a Bresnan distributor into operation. This line was operated by Engine 4's crew. The crew from Ladder 1 was then assigned to basement operations to relieve Engine 3.

Working Fire

Kirsch, the incident commander, declared a working fire at 4:53 A.M. Pumper/Ladder 11, a 1,500-gpm pumper with a 75-foot ladder, responded and command staff consisting of Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer and Deputy Chief Dave Leavenworth as well as off-duty division and battalion chiefs were paged. Pumper/Ladder 11 was assigned to side Charlie and was set up for water tower operations. After finding the hydrant across the street from the fire building inoperative, the crew assisted the crew from Engine 7 hand jack a 600-foot, five-inch supply line to a hydrant at the intersection of Third and Post Streets. Ground ladders were setup on the Bravo and Delta sides of the building for firefighter egress.

Kirsch requested a second alarm at 5:16. Engines 13 and 18, both 1,250-gpm pumpers, and Ladder 2, an 85-foot aerial platform with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded. Engine 13 was assigned to side Bravo and assisted Engine 3 in placing a 2½-inch hoseline with a Bresnan distributor through the floor inside the loading dock area of the building. Engine 18 supplied Engine 9 with a 200-foot, 2½-inch line. The crew made entry into the building on the Delta-side second floor to check for extension. Firefighters encountered medium smoke conditions, but no fire extension was found on any of the floors at this time. Schaeffer, the Delta Division assistant chief, ordered the crew to set up additional 2½-inch lines with hotel packs on the second and third floors in anticipation of fire extension to these areas. Ladder 2 was positioned on side Delta and set up for aerial master stream operations.

After meeting face-to-face with Kirsch, Schaeffer assumed command and requested a third alarm at 5:48 A.M. Kirsch was assigned Operations Section chief. Engine 14, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Engine 16, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded. He also requested Spokane County's Type III Incident Management Team to the scene.

Engine 14 laid a 400-foot, five-inch supply line from a hydrant at Lincoln and Second streets to side Alpha. Engine 16 was assigned to the staging area and crewmembers were assigned as a rapid intervention team on side Delta and assisted with personnel tracking. Engine 81 from Spokane Fire District 8 was also included on the third alarm and the personnel were used throughout the incident in multiple assignments.

Spokane County's Type III Incident Management Team is staffed three teams deep and members in each position are on call on a two-week cycle. The team was supported by a command vehicle with a 17-kilowatt generator, all-hazard communications dispatch positions for four operators, conference area with five LCD video screens, on-board wireless network and available microwave downlink from helicopter. Critical command positions were filled including logistics section chief, planning section chief, liaison officer and public information officer. Schaeffer, a member of the Type III team, retained command of the incident and approved the team's Incident Action Plan (IAP) for the next 12 hours. The remaining positions responding from the Type III Team supported the existing structure in place and were able to bring information from the field and contribute to the development of the IAP.

With the third alarm, Post Street Command also requested mutual aid from various departments. The Spokane Valley Fire Department responded with Ladder 10; Spokane County Fire District 9 responded with Engine 92 and Spokane County Fire District 10 responded with Engine 101. All units were assigned to provide coverage for the city.

Defensive Attack

Despite an aggressive interior attack in multiple divisions, the fire continued to spread within the Dorian portion of the building and interior conditions deteriorated to an unsafe level. At 7:12 A.M., all crews were ordered to evacuate and interior operations were abandoned. Aerial master streams, deck guns, portable monitors and exterior hoselines were placed into operation. Engine 13 manned a monitor and a deluge gun supplied by Engine 4 on side Alpha. Ladder 2, positioned on side Delta, used its platform in an aerial attack of the fire. Multiple 2½-inch lines were used by crews on sides Alpha and Bravo into openings in the burning structure. Ladder 1 operated an aerial stream fed by a 400-foot, five-inch supply line laid by Engine 14 from a hydrant at 2nd Avenue and Lincoln. At 7:40 A.M., the first floor flashed over.