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On Tuesday, July 13, 2010, a major-emergency structure fire in Los Angeles, CA, destroyed a large commercial building that manufactured and stored titanium golf clubs.
During the fire, two explosions resulted in injuries to firefighters and damage to apparatus and equipment. The involved structures were in South Los Angeles. Built in 1939, the structures are approximately 150 by 300 feet with both Type 3 and Type 5 (metal clad) construction. The first structure involved with fire consisted of brick walls and a heavy-timber bridge-truss roof; the middle section of the structure was wood-framed stucco walls with a metal sawtooth roof. The initial exposure building was a two-story wood-frame with stucco walls and a conventional flat roof. A breezeway separated these two structures and multiple other commercial building exposures.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at United Alloys and Metals at 731 East Slauson Ave. at 11:43 P.M. Engine 21, Light Force 33 Task Force 14, Engine 46, ALS Rescue Ambulance (RA) 21 and BLS RA 833 responded with 30 personnel under the command of Battalion 3.
At 11:47, RA 833 was the first on scene and reported a large, one-story commercial structure with fire in the rear. One minute later, Truck 33 arrived on scene, assumed command and called for an offensive attack. At 11:52, the Battalion 3 chief arrived on scene and assumed command.
Battalion 3 requested two additional engines (Engines 57 and 66), two additional trucks (Trucks 66 and 10), Hazardous Materials Squad 4 and four additional battalion commanders (BC 13, 7, 11 and 1). By department standard operating procedure (SOP), Battalion 3 automatically received an additional rapid intervention urban search and rescue (USAR) task force (Truck 3 and Engine 3) and a division commander (DC 2).
Truck 33 initially reported heavy fire showing through the roof with heavy, black smoke from a large, primarily one-story commercial structure. Engines 21 and 14 were assigned to fire attack on the west (Division A) side of the structure. Truck 14 was assigned Roof Division with Truck 33. Battalion 3 established the command post on the southwest side of the structure and continued to press an offensive attack on the fire.
Truck 14 immediately reported conditions deteriorating on the roof due to the heavy volume of fire through the roof. Soon, Battalion 3 announced that a defensive attack would be used on the fire. Battalion 3’s immediate concern was the potential spread of fire to adjacent occupancies on three sides. DC 2 assumed command at 11:56 and reassigned Battalion 3 as the Operations Section Chief.
On arrival of the greater-alarm resources, Battalion 3 assigned Trucks 10 and 66 to Division D, Truck 14 was reassigned to Division A and Truck 33 reassigned to Division C. Ladder pipe operations were established on the three sides of the structure accessible by street. Trucks 14, 33, 66 and 10’s ladderpipes were flowing 750 gallons of water per minute. Two-and-a-half-inch hoselines were established on Divisions A and C with 1¾-inch hoselines as backup lines. On Division D, four 2½-inch lines were flowing water to help protect firefighters staffing the truck ladder pipes.
Numerous firefighters reported seeing bright-white flames with hues of green and blue; unfortunately, this information was not communicated to Battalion 3. At 12:11 A.M., BC 11 arrived on scene and was assigned Division D as the supervisor. USAR resources arrived on scene and were designated as rapid intervention and Battalion 7 was assigned as the safety officer.
As the fire progressed, the upper section of the wall on the D side of the structure collapsed. After the wall collapse, BC 11 recalled seeing white-hot metal and was about to instruct the trucks to direct their streams away from the white burning metals. Seconds later, at 12:26, about 40 minutes into the incident, a large explosion occurred and propelled burning shrapnel into the air and caused small fires north and south of the structure.