On The Job - Texas: Mansion Fire Largest Loss Of Private Home In Dallas History

Doug Dickerson reports from the scene of a fire that consumed a huge mansion in the "billionaire’s row" section of Dallas.


Mansion Fire Largest Loss Of Private Home In Dallas History DALLAS FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT Chief Steve E. Abraira Personnel: 1,670 uniformed personnel and 265 civilian support personnel Apparatus: 54 engines, 21 trucks, 40 rescue units Population: 1,188,580 Area: 378 square...


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Mansion Fire Largest Loss Of Private Home In Dallas History

DALLAS FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT
Chief Steve E. Abraira
Personnel: 1,670 uniformed personnel and 265 civilian support personnel
Apparatus: 54 engines, 21 trucks, 40 rescue units
Population: 1,188,580
Area: 378 square miles

Firefighters in Dallas know that a reported structure fire on Strait Lane has the potential to become a major incident. This street, in an exclusive north Dallas neighborhood, is commonly referred to as "billionaire's row" and with good reason. Houses in this area, 15 miles north of downtown, are anything but typical, and are home to such notables as businessman Ross Perot, Dallas Stars owner Don Hicks and superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez. In the early-morning hours of July 11, 2002, first-arriving crews knew they had a lot of work ahead of them.

Originating from a cell phone used by a security guard on the property, the first alarm for 10330 Strait Lane was sounded at 1:05 A.M., sending three engine companies, a ladder truck, a rescue unit and a battalion chief. C-shifters on Engine 41 and Truck 41 were first due on this address and reported heavy smoke coming from a large three-story house. Reports of a working fire receive an additional truck company and an additional battalion chief.

Crews from Station 41 pulled up to the front of the house, which sat some 300 feet from the road. A five-inch hose line was laid in by the second-arriving engine company to supply Engine 41. As first-alarm companies started an interior fire attack, a second-alarm was requested at 1:11, bringing three more engines, two trucks, one rescue, two battalion chiefs and a deputy chief. As firefighters attempted to cut it off from inside, the fire was gaining considerable headway and beginning to show through the roof. A third-alarm was requested at 1:15, bringing three more engines and another truck.

The house was not occupied at the time of the fire and, after many years of construction, was in the final stages of completion. The Chateau Du Triomphe, as it was called, sat on a 10-acre estate and boasted 43,000 square feet above ground and 17,000 square feet of basement area below ground. It had just been listed with Christie's Great Estates for the price of $44.9 million. It had been reported by some to be the second-largest private home in the country.

One of the many elaborate features in this home was a 16-car garage, complete with an indoor car-washing facility. It also had an indoor theater, a gift-wrapping room, a wine cellar with a tasting room, two custom marble tubs that were carved in Verona, Italy, from a single block of Carrera marble and a 6,200-square-foot natatorium. The enormity of the home rivals many large commercial buildings and it became a difficult battle for firefighters inside.

Large open spaces in the living areas and in the walls made it easy for the fire to advance. Firefighters on the ground floor reported good visibility, but noted heavy fire in the walls as they were opened up. Firefighters reaching the top floor and attempting to gain access to the attic found that the area had been finished with flooring and would be extremely difficult to breech.

There were access points to the upper area, but the fire had extended beyond the one closest to firefighters working inside. Their position was no longer advantageous and was quickly becoming unsafe as the fire broke through the steeply pitched slate roof. The attic sloped up to 18 feet, with flat areas above those portions of the house not covered by the pitched roof. The attic was open for the entire distance of the length of the house, which was approximately 400 feet. The decision was made to remove firefighters from inside the structure and move to an exterior attack. A fourth-alarm was requested at 1:33, bringing another three engines and one truck. This was quickly followed by the request for a fifth-alarm at 1:40, which provided an additional three engine companies.

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