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...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

At three different points, attempts were made to keep the fire from extending throughout the two-story wings. Each attempt proved futile and the decision was made to once again remove firefighters and stick with the exterior attack. It was a very frustrating night for the 100-plus firefighters and numerous support personnel working to contain the fire in this mammoth home. Three additional engine companies were special called to the scene around 4:30.

As the fire continued to grow with intensity, the north rehab site had to be abandoned, as it was now in the hot zone. The fight continued from the outside as the fire began to consume the two-story wings, traveling easily in the open attic space. As dawn started to break over this large incident, firefighters could now see just how big this structure was.

Shift change came at 7 A.M. and provided yet another challenge for incident commanders. Crews being relieved at the scene were exhausted and fresh crews were now taking their places. Only a few hot spots remained in the main portion of the house at this time, but the fire continued to burn in the north wings. It was not until 9:08 that the fire was "tapped-out" and called officially under control. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, two of those being treated on the scene for heat exhaustion. A third firefighter suffered second-degree burns to the back of the neck from falling debris, and a fourth was cut on the arm by falling debris and required stitches.

Overhaul Begins

Although the fire was now under control, there was still plenty of work to be done. A team of investigators gathered in front of the home to formulate a strategy for determining the cause of the fire. Blueprints of the home and accounts from building contractors and workers provided information to investigators about the layout of the building and the work being done on the days prior to the fire. Structural engineers were called in to evaluate the stability of the remains before firefighters could move inside to work through the hot spots. Heavy equipment from Dallas Water Utilities was brought in to knock down walls that were deemed unstable. Fire crews now worked to back out of the operation, picking up hose and equipment that would not be needed during the overhaul process.

The overhaul operation itself was a large incident, consisting of four engine companies, two truck companies and two battalion chiefs throughout the rest of the day. Early in the afternoon, Maintenance Division personnel brought extra five-inch hose to the scene. This hose was used to supply water from two different hydrants. The hose was left in place so that overhaul companies, who rotated every four hours, could hook up without having to lay out their own hose.

The overhaul companies worked from the east and west sides of the house; two engines, a truck and a battalion chief on each. This operation continued until 11 P.M. The charred remains of the elaborate mansion continued to emit light smoke 18 hours after the first call, as portable lighting towers were brought to the scene for use during the night. Although scaled back during the night hours, fire crews remained on the scene to keep it secure and to watch for hot spot flare-ups. Representatives from Texas Treasure Fields, the corporate owner of the property, worked closely with incident commanders and fire investigators during the fire and in the days following. Fire crews remained on the scene for five days after the first call, before finally turning control of the property back to the owners.

Dallas fire investigators worked together with a private investigative team hired by the owners to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire. After almost two months of hard work, investigators were ready to announce a cause. Investigators stated that the fire had started in the attic above the library, where flammable liquid vapors had recondensed in one of the air-handling units and were ignited by properly operating electrical equipment.

Approximately 50 gallons of wood stain and sanding sealer had been applied to the flooring on the first and second floors during the afternoon preceding the fire. Workers had also been spray painting in a third-floor room near the same area. The slate and standing-seam copper roof confined the fire in the attic while it built up, fueled by the combustible structural members. The loss estimate is being set at $40 million, easily making it the largest loss to a private home in Dallas history.