On The Job - Texas

Homer Robertson reports on fires that occurred in a 10-block area after vandals damaged a regulator which supplied gas to numerous homes.


On the evening of Nov. 16, 1995, at 10 P.M., the Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department alarm office (AO) received a report through the city’s 911 system that a gas cooking stove was on fire in a residence at 1211 East Terrell St. That initial 911 call would set in motion a multi-agency response that...


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On the evening of Nov. 16, 1995, at 10 P.M., the Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department alarm office (AO) received a report through the city’s 911 system that a gas cooking stove was on fire in a residence at 1211 East Terrell St. That initial 911 call would set in motion a multi-agency response that would tax the city’s resources.

FORT WORTH FIRE DEPARTMENT

Chief: H.L. McMillen
PersonneL: 674 career firefighters
Apparatus: 42 engines, four ladders
Population: 470,650
Area: 296 square miles

The AO dispatched a full-alarm assignment that consisted of Engines 5, 2 and 8; Truck 2; Squad 2; and Battalion 2 Chief Galen Young on the initial call. As the companies responded, the AO began receiving numerous other calls in the same area for structure fires and appliance fires. Unsure of the unfolding incidents, the AO began dispatching alarm assignments to the reported structure fires.

First-due Engine 5, only two minutes from the area, reported on the scene at 1211 East Terrell with nothing showing. The crew members then advised that they had a small fire that they could handle but they could see what appeared to be a working residence fire in the next block, on Humbolt Street.

Engine 8, responding on the initial alarm, arrived at 1204 Humbolt St. to find a two-story wood-frame four-plex with the first floor well involved. Bystanders told Engine 8’s lieutenant, Jim Bradford, that people were trapped on the second floor.

Engine 8’s crew deployed a 13¼4-inch handline to darken down the main body of fire while a ground ladder was raised to rescue a woman and her two grandchildren. Engine 2 and Squad 2 assisted Engine 8 in removing the trapped occupants and knocking down the remaining fire. On arrival, Young assumed command of the incident.

The AO was continuing to receive numerous calls of structure fires and gas leaks in a 10-block area. The AO was having a difficult time in dispatching adequate resources to meet demands, as well as determining the exact locations of the incidents. The AO also announced to companies that all the incidents appeared to be natural-gas-related.

Young requested a third-alarm assignment to be sent to the staging area that had been established a few blocks away. Fire companies responding or operating at ongoing incidents could see looms of smoke and were receiving reports from citizens of structure fires throughout the area, which they reported to the incident commander.

One company officer described the incident as “cafeteria-style” firefighting — choose a structure and don’t expect any help. One or two companies were handling working fires that normally would receive full-alarm assignments.

As companies were controlling the incident at 1204 East Humbolt, where three people had been rescued over ground ladders, crews saw another structure fire at 1212 East Humbolt, only three houses away. At 1212 East Humbolt was a one-story frame residence with two rooms involved. Crews from Engines 8 and 2 and Squad 2 again went to work with a pre-connected 21¼2-inch line from Engine 8, which was still operating at the first fire. Crews were able to quickly control that incident without trouble.

Young used later-arriving battalion chiefs to divide the area into divisions and assign them companies to begin the process of shutting off the gas service to 600 homes. Companies patrolled the area throughout the night to prevent possible structure fires, as well as to assure residents of their safety.

In the follow-up investigation by the Fort Worth Fire Department Arson Division and the local gas company, it was revealed that vandals had broken into a pressure reducing manifold, called a monitoring regulator station, in hopes of removing scrap metal. The area affected was made up mostly of older homes serviced by a low-pressure gas system.

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