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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Exterior Attack Strategy

The task facing incident commanders now was to move personnel and equipment into position around the home in order to launch an effective exterior attack. Limited vehicle access around the home made it a challenge to position equipment and hoselines. Additional hydrants in the neighborhood were utilized to keep the water supply adequate at the scene, but some lays were over 1,500 feet.

Dallas engines carry a standard load of 1,200 feet of five-inch hose for a permanent water supply. It took time to get lines in place because of the hose that was already on the ground and the number of apparatus that sometimes had to be worked around. Several fire crews worked to place hose bridges over existing lines and moved charged lines by hand, making room that would allow additional apparatus to enter the estate grounds. Dallas Water Utilities supervisors, who had reported to the command post, were able to boost the water pressure in the area to help with the long hose lays.

Three ladder trucks were positioned to attack the fire from above with large streams, and were complimented by deck guns on the engines and large hand lines on the ground. The strategy at this point was to confine the large body of fire to the portion of the main house where it was now burning.

The Dallas Police Department helicopter, Air One, was circling above, monitoring embers at the request of incident command. Air One is able to communicate directly with command, as they are equipped with both police and fire radios. Flying embers were not a problem during this incident since the large estate provided adequate separation between buildings and the southerly breeze was less than five knots that night.

Even in the dark of night, the temperature was hovering around the 80-degree mark, with the relative humidity over 50%. Combined with the lack of wind, it was not long before firefighters became fatigued.

The Box Four Fire Buffs Association provides rehab services to Dallas firefighters when needed and responds automatically on all two-alarm fires. This volunteer group of men and women provide a much-appreciated service and operate within the framework of the incident command system. As the pivotal point in an established rehab area, it provides drinks, snacks and restroom facilities, and is also able to set up misting fans to help firefighters cool down. An EMS supervisor oversees the rehab area, and paramedic crews are assigned to monitor firefighters and respond to areas within the scene if needed. The mobile air cascade unit, which responds automatically on all two-alarm fires as well, is positioned near the rehab area, so firefighters can easily change their air bottles at one central location.

The large numbers of firefighters and support personnel working on the scene, combined with the size of the property, proved to be a challenge for rehab as well. A secondary rehab area had to be established on the north side of the house. Paramedic crews, along with an additional EMS supervisor, set up "north rehab" for firefighters working on that end of the property. Box Four members shuttled drinks from their vehicle to the secondary area, and provided as many services as they could without having the unit actually there. A sixth-alarm was called for at 3:26, bringing three more engine companies.

North of the three-story portion of the house were several two-story wings. One of the wings housed the natatorium, which contained an indoor, Olympic-sized swimming pool. As the main body of fire seemed to burn out of control in the three-story portion, firefighters again entered the house in the two-story area to the north in an attempt to cut off the fire. The home had a sprinkler system in the living areas, but it was ineffective as the fire traveled through the open attic space, which was not sprinklered.