1. #1
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    Default Clearwater Florida, Report of Fatal Condo Fire Released

    Several months go I posted a report of a multi-alarm fire in a condominum in Clearwater Florida. The fire resulted in 2 civilian fatalities and 5 firefighter injuries. Two of the Firefighters received severe burns. Here is a link to the report as issued by the Fire Chief.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/08/10/No..._hampere.shtml

    Additionally, here is a link to the 911 tape.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/08/10/audio/audio.shtml
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    It sure makes it tough to put out a fire without water. Sounds like they hung in there as long as they could. It also appears that it easily could have been multiple firefighter fatality incident. Thanks for sending the link Stan..My grandma lives in Clearwater(imagine that)and they seem like a pretty good outfit. I hope they figure out who shut the standpipe down.

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    You are welcome Mikey...I did not realize when I posted it that it had been on the FH.com main page.

    The fire has been an extreme source of controversy since it happened. There has been finger pointing and just about everything else in relation to what actually happened that caused the firefighter injuries, appropriate gear, SOP's....etc...

    What part of CW does she live in? I am not that far from Clearwater...about 45 miles.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    I didnt notice that either Stan..Grandma lives in the world famous "Top of the World" complex..Home to about 2 million senior citizens !

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    Post The Controversy Continues

    As the controversy over this fire continues, here are some letters to the Editor in today's St. Petersburg Times.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/08/18/No...more_que.shtml
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Default POST FIRE--Condominium Officials Ask For Help

    Stating that only a few residents even bothered to acknowledge the alarm that morning the Association is asking for guidance.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/08/25/No...ondos_se.shtml
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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  7. #7
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    Post Follow Up Story--Residents Sue...Fire Dept Gag Order

    Residents to sue over condo fire

    The estate of a woman who died and two Dolphin Cove residents notify Clearwater they plan to sue.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published October 10, 2002


    -----------------------------------------

    CLEARWATER -- The estate of the 81-year-old grandmother who died from burns and smoke inhalation after a fire at Dolphin Cove condominiums on Island Estates has notified the city of plans to sue.

    Filed by the estate of Jean Zetterberg, the notice accuses the city of negligence in relation to the fire at the 11-story building, which erupted in flames before dawn on June 28, after a kitchen fire started in the fifth-floor unit where Zetterberg's son and teenage granddaughter lived.

    Two other residents of Dolphin Cove, 83-year-old John Sokolich and 37-year-old Anne Yaro, also put the city on notice they will sue.

    The threat of litigation prompted Fire Chief Rowland Herald to issue a gag order Monday for department staff regarding questions about the fire.

    "Clearwater Fire and Rescue personnel shall not comment or respond to any questions regarding the above-named incident until this directive is lifted," Herald wrote in a memo circulated Monday to department staff.

    On Wednesday, City Manager Bill Horne said the gag order, which was recommended by City Attorney Pam Akin, extends to all city employees.

    "All of us are kind of gagged from commenting on anything that is potentially in litigation," he said.

    The fire at Dolphin Cove, which also killed 75-year-old Robert Kelly and sent five firefighters to the hospital, spurred a six-week investigation by the city. Investigators labeled the blaze an accident, but identified several factors that combined to create trouble.

    The building, which was built in the mid 1970s, does not have sprinklers, and investigators estimate several minutes passed before residents called 911.

    Firefighters also were frustrated by a broken hydrant outside the building, and inside, they struggled with the building's hose system, part of which had been shut off at the source.

    It took firefighters 28 minutes to get water on the fire.

    According to separate letters filed by Clearwater lawyer Tom Carey, Yaro and Sokolich suffered injuries.

    Clearwater lawyer Terence Perenich, who is representing Zetterberg's estate, declined to comment on the specifics of any potential claim.

    -- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report, which contains information from Times files.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    Let me make sure I have this straight. A fire started in my unit. Probably due to my carelessness. I am killed, yet my estate is suing the city for negligence????????????

    Yes the City was at fault for the water issues but I can't get over the nerve of the estate of the person who caused the fire suing everyone else.

  9. #9
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    Ladycapn.....I think it is what we affectionately refer to as a "shotgun suit." The lawyers sue everyone involved and then let the judge sort it out.

    I think the negligence referred to in this case is that of the owner for not being up to code and having broken or inoperating parts of the fire protection system...such as door closers and the Standpipe that was alledged to have had a closed valve also. Additionally, there may be some reference to the city other than defective hydrants in the form of lack of proper inspection. The article was not very clear and very vague....
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  10. #10
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    Post Another Report Released

    __________________________________
    After I posted this I realized that it did not include the diagram...co I included the link at the bottom for anyone interested in building diagram
    __________________________________


    Review faults tactics in fatal fire
    Clearwater Fire Department's training and ability to fight high-rise fires are questioned after it is criticized for bungling basics in a fatal fire.
    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published October 16, 2002


    ----------------------------------------

    CLEARWATER -- City firefighters responding to a deadly condo fire in a waterfront high-rise violated department guidelines and failed to follow basic firefighting techniques, a St. Petersburg Times review has found.

    The tactics that June morning were so flawed, it raises serious questions about Clearwater's readiness to combat high-rise fires, according to two veteran fire commanders -- former chiefs from Miami and New York -- who studied the department's operations at the newspaper's request.

    That assessment is a far cry from the city's own findings, released along with a 600-page report about the June 28 fire in Dolphin Cove condominiums that killed two elderly residents and badly injured three firefighters.

    Among the contributing factors, Chief Rowland Herald said, were the building's lack of sprinklers, faulty door closers, flawed radio communications and residents' failure to call 911 promptly.

    The Times review, however, found that firefighters -- who took 28 minutes to hit the fire with water -- didn't follow fundamental, accepted rules of firefighting and violated their own guidelines.

    -- Department high-rise guidelines call for firefighters to set up a staging area two floors below a fire to develop a game plan and coordinate their attack. Firefighters went directly to the fire floor, only to be met with thick smoke that clouded their search for the fire.

    -- Accepted practice is for firefighters to tap into the building's internal water system, known as a standpipe, in the stairwell below the fire, then drag a hose upstairs. Instead, firefighters tapped into another standpipe down the hall from the fire. That pipe had no water; a ground level valve had been turned off.

    -- Had firefighters carried a hose up from the stairwell in a lower floor, they could have hit the fire with water in accordance with accepted practices, from the inside out. That way, the water drives smoke and heat away from the building's interior. But at Dolphin Cove, the crew on the fire floor couldn't get water, abandoned firefighting efforts and instead started evacuating residents.

    -- Department guidelines ban firefighters from taking elevators to fires on or below the sixth floor. This fire was on the fifth floor, but firefighters rode elevators anyway. Three were trapped briefly when elevator doors wouldn't open on the fire floor.

    The Times asked the two retired commanders to review the city's report and audio recordings of the communications that day. They concluded the department's failure to follow fundamentals and its own guidelines created confusion and indicates the department is understaffed, poorly trained and lacking leadership.

    Ed Donaldson, a 27-year firefighter who was head of Metro-Dade County Fire Rescue almost nine years, described the operation as "the product of a department in disarray."

    "They violated some very basic principles," he said. "You can't do that."

    Clearwater's Fire Department is shorthanded, which only enhances its need for intense training, Donaldson concluded.

    "These kids had the commitment, not the training," he said. "When you're undermanned, it's difficult to run smooth. A lot of things get out of kilter in a hurry."

    Tony Quatrone, a former New York City battalion chief who supervised firefighting efforts in Manhattan skyscrapers, described the scene at Dolphin Cove as "chaos" and "total, total confusion." He, too, thinks Clearwater is understaffed and was poorly commanded at Dolphin Cove.

    "They're so undermanned, it's crazy," he said. "I don't know how they operate."

    Worst of all, both experts said, was the delay in getting water on the fire. Had crews gone to the right spot and applied water at once, the fire would have been manageable, they said. Instead, firefighters concentrated on evacuation.

    "If you don't put water on the fire, you're going to lose control," Quatrone said. "That's what they did. They lost control."

    Clearwater's fire chief, city manager and mayor say their department is well prepared. They are skeptical of analysis done at a distance by experts for the Times.

    "We are not understaffed," Mayor Brian Aungst said emphatically.

    Said City Manager Bill Horne: "I do believe our department is prepared well enough to minimize the loss of life and injury. We're also committed to becoming better and better at performing our jobs."


    * * *
    Whether the city is sufficiently prepared to fight fires in a high-rise is critical for Clearwater, which has scores of high-rises and a higher percentage of residents 65 and older than any big city in the country.

    Other than acknowledging that his firefighters violated guidelines by riding elevators in Dolphin Cove, Chief Herald has not second-guessed them publicly. The department, he said, conducts critiques after major events and follows up with necessary training. He said the department's training division receives consistently high marks on internal evaluations.

    "Understand that firefighting is not an exact science," said Herald, Clearwater's chief since 1998. "It's a dynamically evolving event. There is no one way to get the job done."

    Nonetheless, the chief announced plans last week to seek an independent review from the U.S. Fire Administration, an arm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency whose goal is to reduce fire deaths.

    The decision, made at the urging of rank and file, came amid questions from the Times.

    Last week, City Attorney Pam Akin took the unusual step of issuing a gag order for all city employees concerning Dolphin Cove. City Manager Horne confirmed the gag order came after officials learned the Times had scheduled an interview with Lt. Tom Allegretti, head of the first engine crew to reach the fire.

    John Lee, the president of the firefighter's union, was interviewed before the gag order. He says that mistakes were made at Dolphin Cove and that the breaches in protocol raise serious questions about the department's readiness to fight such fires. He welcomes the federal review.

    "We want the training and the manpower to do the job," he said. "To me, we need to be honest. There's no training. People are going to die. It's already happened."

    He added: "We know it's going to find some flaws. ... We're okay with that. All we want is a fair shake."


    * * *
    It started in a fifth-floor kitchen, with a burner left on low.

    Charles Zetterberg woke up to a crackling noise shortly after 5 a.m. He didn't call 911 immediately. After trying fire extinguishers, he and a neighbor tried the hoses in the hallways but got no water because they didn't pull out all the coils.

    From statements to investigators and recorded radio transmissions, the picture that emerges is firefighters who were desperate for water, confused and lacking coordination.

    By the time the first crew arrived, the fire had burned at least 22 minutes. It would smolder and swell 28 minutes more before water finally arrived.

    Firefighters rode elevators directly to the fire floor, some thinking they were responding to an alarm, not a fire. They stepped off the elevator to heavy smoke. Soon people were everywhere. Firefighters couldn't see the source of the fire.

    One radioed his commander on the ground, asking for more crews to help get residents out. He also asked where the fire was. But the acting district chief, Lt. Mel Acton, was confused. He radioed back that the fire was on the first floor.

    Outside, another firefighter corrected him, telling crews the fire was on the fifth floor.

    The dispatchers who had fielded 911 calls failed to tell firefighters which condo was burning until eight minutes after the first crew arrived. At that point, firefighters already had tapped into the fifth floor center standpipe, only to discover it dry. Seconds later, a voice shouted: "Give us some water. We need some water. Command, we need some water."

    Outside, a ladder truck crew stationed at the fire window also called for water. But it had hooked up to a broken fire hydrant.

    As firefighters inside and outside pleaded for water, the acting commander assured them it was on the way -- a crew on the ground had already charged the standpipe system. But no one checked to see if all the valves were open -- and the valve on the center standpipe had inexplicably been turned off.

    In the hallway, temperatures continued to climb. Frustrated, Lt. Allegretti radioed: "We have no water. We're backing off this floor. It's too hot right now."

    Down the hall, firefighters Karen Jackson and Dave Hogan were ushering Zetterberg's 81-year-old mother, Jean, toward the elevator.

    It was then, investigators say, that fire exploded down the hallway, felling 75-year-old Robert Kelly, who had broken away from a firefighter helping him out. He died of smoke inhalation.

    The fireburst also knocked Jackson to the floor and overwhelmed Mrs. Zetterberg. She suffered smoke inhalation and burns over 43 percent of her body, and died the next day.

    Hogan ran down the smoke-filled hallway, colliding with other firefighters and saying he was burning. Jackson lay in the hallway by the elevator, burned and disoriented. She was dragged to safety by firefighter Steve Colbert, who also suffered burns.

    Clearwater fire officials said Dolphin Cove suffered a "flashover," a rare kind of explosion in a confined space that causes the very air to catch fire.

    At 5:55 a.m., 50 minutes after the fire started, water was applied to it from a truck outside Zetterberg's window. About the same time, firefighters inside finally hooked into the stairtower standpipe and shot water from that position -- a smart first strategy, according to accepted practice.

    It took six minutes to knock down the fire.

    "Placed in an untenable situation," Donaldson said of the firefighters, "they did some heroic things."

    But the former Miami chief had little praise for those in charge at Dolphin Cove, calling command a "deep hole" into which information disappeared.

    "You never heard command directing traffic," he said. "His role is to know what's supposed to happen and try to make sure what is happening conforms as much as possible with good procedure. Command did none of that ever throughout the whole thing."

    Quatrone criticized commanders for not taking charge, leaving firefighters inside the building essentially to operate alone.

    "They had no control of what their men were doing," he said.

    Donaldson and Quatrone agree the firefighters should have gotten water on the fire as soon as possible, any way they could. Even if it meant starting with the 350 gallons from a fire truck parked outside the building.

    "If (they) had gotten water on the fire," Quatrone said, "this would have never happened."

    As for the flashover phenomenon, Donaldson suggested another explanation: "Creating an environment that was too hard to work in to explain away deficiencies in their operation.

    "I doubt there was a flashover, period," he said.

    The fire at Dolphin Cove has soured the already-strained relationship between the city and the firefighters union.

    Stunned by the number of injuries and their close brush with death, firefighters have demanded better equipment and more staff. But city officials said the union, bitter about failed pension negotiations, was posturing for contract talks.

    Firefighters say legitimate staffing concerns have been dismissed, leaving the city exposed to disaster during the next big fire.

    Jim Carino, a 25-year department veteran, has been pushing for more staffing since the late 1980s, when call volumes began a steady increase. A year ago, after Sept. 11, he warned city commissioners about the dangers of short staffing in high-rise fires.

    "Developers continue to propose high-rise buildings," he said then. "Our fear is that we will be unable to meet the challenges of high-rise emergency."

    After the fire, in a taped interview aired on C-View, the city's cable TV channel, Mayor Aungst and Chief Herald trumpeted staffing increases, saying the department had added 26 street level firefighters since 1998.

    In fact, the city has added only 16 firefighters. His 26 number, Herald acknowledged last week, included two fire inspectors plus eight positions that won't be filled until the city starts building a new station next year.

    "Maybe that was an oversight," Aungst said last week of the mistaken higher number. "The (new station) got held up, as you well know, so they got held up."

    Carino, interviewed before the city's recent gag order, called the department's high-rise guidelines "unrealistic."

    "There's no way we can move the equipment and the personnel in there that we need with the staffing that we have," he said. "There's a lot of assignments that get missed."

    Carino praised his fellow firefighters' heroism at Dolphin Cove but did not dispute they violated accepted practices.

    "We're in trouble for lots of reasons, and they need to identify it," he said. "Turtling up is not the thing to do."

    The next high-rise fire could spell disaster, Carino said. "We're destined for failure. We're destined to die. We can't handle it."

    Saying his department is well-prepared, Chief Herald cited a series of high-rise training exercises in the two years before the Dolphin Cove fire.

    There were classroom sessions with videos and power point presentations. Firefighters also toured the firefighting features of a Sand Key high-rise and drilled in the basement of a vacant hospital. Three months before Dolphin Cove, they trained on the second floor at Clearwater Mall and practiced with high-rise equipment.

    The mayor, meanwhile, said he has no doubt Clearwater firefighters are well-prepared, fully trained and equipped to protect the public and themselves.

    "We have a very professional Fire Department," said Aungst. "I'll stand by that."

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/10/16/Ta..._tactics.shtml
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  11. #11
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    Ok,so your dept is understaffed, it takes approximately 20 minutes to get a line on a fire in a high rise. (this was a published, nationwide statistic several years ago, although I admit I don't remember the article). The most water you will flow when you get there is about 350gpm/per nozzle team at the absolute best. Would anyone have a large problem with knocking this fire down from the outside with a smooth bore nozzle (as not to push the fire)using as much as 800gpm while the enterior crew was making the stretch? Provided of course that the deck gun/ladder pipe had the reach.

  12. #12
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    Post St. Petersburg Times Editorial

    This is an editorial in the St. Pete Times... Related to this story as well as the one on FH.Com Main Page

    _________________

    A Times Editorial

    Unprepared
    Firefighters must have proper training to deal with highrise fires to avoid the situation Clearwater firefighters encountered at Dolphin Cove condominiums.

    St. Petersburg Times
    published October 18, 2002

    ---------------------------------------

    Clearwater residents who live in multistory buildings should fear for their lives if they have been depending on the Clearwater Fire Department to save them in a fire.

    That is the inescapable conclusion of a months-long St. Petersburg Times investigation of a June fire that killed two residents of an 11-story condominium building and seriously injured several firefighters.

    No one is pointing fingers at individual firefighters who responded to the alarm before dawn June 28. They tried to do their jobs despite the difficult conditions they encountered at the Dolphin Cove condominium: a fifth-floor kitchen fire that roared out of control and filled the narrow hallway, a broken fire hydrant and dry interior standpipe that left fire hoses dry, soaring heat that burned firefighters through their heavy bunker gear, and residents who were so accustomed to false alarms that they were slow to evacuate.

    But Wednesday's story by Times reporter Jennifer Farrell showed that poor performance by the Fire Department contributed to the tragic outcomes that day. Clearwater firefighters have not been sufficiently trained in highrise firefighting techniques. And the fire officers who should have taken charge and directed them that day did not do so. The scene dissolved into chaos as department guidelines were violated, firefighters got trapped or missed assignments, and rescuers yelled repeatedly for water or for help, talking over each other on the radio.

    Two experienced and respected retired fire commanders who reviewed the Clearwater department's performance at Dolphin Cove for the Times found the number of deficiencies chilling. "They had no control of what their men were doing," said one. The operation, said the other, was "the product of a department in disarray."

    Rank-and-file Clearwater firefighters who spoke to the Times before the city attorney issued a gag order did not try to deny that their department is in trouble. Said one, "There's no training. People are going to die."

    Clearwater officials ought to be scrambling to correct the department's command deficiencies, institute new protocols and get firefighters more highrise training in environments outside of a classroom.

    Instead, they are in denial. The Fire Department's own formal assessment of its performance at Dolphin Cove was embarrassingly inadequate. Clearwater Fire Chief Rowland Herald, City Manager Bill Horne and Mayor Brian Aungst have all defended the department, its staffing and its training in the presence of clear evidence of the department's shortcomings. They may believe that in doing so they are protecting the city from the impact of lawsuits that will be filed over the Dolphin Cove fire, but those answers betray their obligation to protect public safety above all else and to be honest with city residents.

    About 80 percent of the Clearwater Fire Department's calls for service are medical, not fire-related. The situation is similar in fire departments all over the country. As old, fire-prone structures have been demolished and as multistory buildings have been required to install sprinklers, the number of fires has gone down. But fire departments still must train strenuously for firefighting, especially in highrise buildings where the potential loss of life in a fire is so great.

    Residents who live in highrises and are counting on the training and professionalism of firefighters in a fire -- no matter what city they live in -- need to aggressively question their fire officials about the type of highrise training that is provided and how frequently, how many firefighters are dispatched to fires, and how prepared their department is to cope in a variety of highrise fire scenarios.

    As the Dolphin Cove fire proved, their local fire department may not be ready at all.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  13. #13
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    Post Letters to the Editor

    The following are letters to the Editor of the St. Petersburg Times..

    St. Petersburg Times
    published October 28, 2002
    --------------------------------------

    Re: Review: Mistakes made in fatal fire, story, Oct. 16

    I am from Pennsylvania, and I just read your story on the chiefs from New York and Miami being critical of the operations at the Dolphin Cove high-rise fire in Clearwater. It was posted on the Web page of Firehouse Daily News, www.firehouse.com.

    As a volunteer firefighter for 34 years -- serving as an assistant chief, an adjunct fire instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and a field representative for state fire training programs for Bucks County Community College -- may I take this opportunity to commend you for your article.

    We teach high-rise firefighting operations, and rule No. 1 is to establish your water on the floor below the fire floor. That way, if there is a problem with valves or piping, it can be rectified before firefighters are put in harm's way.

    It also was interesting to note that although they had a so-called incident commander, the incident command system was nonexistent.

    Gag orders issued by attorneys will not solve the problem. Getting the issues out on the table for review and correction is the direction to take.

    I hope your editors will allow you to stay on this story. You are doing a great service to our brother firefighters in Clearwater.

    Just wanted to take this opportunity to say great job, great story. Keep up the good work. Be safe.
    -- Ted Wright, Dallas, Penn.

    City should take close look at firefighting staffing
    Re: Review: Mistakes made in fatal fire, story, Oct. 16

    Both the Clearwater mayor and the city manager are in denial regarding the preparedness of the fire department. In order to properly rectify the problems that occurred -- and they were exactly as chiefs Tony Quatrone and Ed Donaldson specified -- they have to address the issue of staffing. It's not a question of increasing or intensifying training.

    Any high-rise fire requires additional staffing to be able to perform the additional tasks required by that kind of operation. You have to first address the issue of minimum staffing. Minimum staffing is simply the least number of personnel you can have riding any fire apparatus and still safely and efficiently fight a fire. It is a nationally recognized figure of four firefighters per apparatus.

    The chiefs were right in their assessment that any critique starts there.
    -- Thomas J. Lorio Jr., former commissioner Yonkers, N.Y., Fire Department
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    captstanm1, I don't know if I missed it or not, but what is Clearwaters staffing level? How many on an engine, rescue and a truck. Also, is thier a reason they didn't use tank water from the units for an initial attack?

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    Post Follow Up...Firefighter Sues

    St. Petersburg Times (North Pinellas)

    Injured firefighter sues condo association
    The suit alleges Dolphin Cove Association Inc. failed to properly maintain its fire extinguishing system.
    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    St. Petersburg Times
    published January 8, 2003
    ---------------------------

    CLEARWATER -- A city firefighter burned in a deadly June blaze at a high rise on Island Estates is suing the building's homeowners association for negligence.

    Stephen C. Colbert and his wife, Jeannine, are seeking more than $15,000 in damages from Dolphin Cove Association Inc., following the June 28 condo fire that killed two residents and sent five firefighters to the hospital, three with severe burns.

    Colbert, hailed as a hero after the fire for pulling fellow firefighter Karen Jackson to safety, suffered severe and lasting injuries, according to the complaint.

    Filed in October, the suit alleges the association failed to properly maintain its fire extinguishing system. Colbert, 37, a seven-year department veteran, was among the first firefighters to arrive on the scene. He was unable to put water on the blaze because the building's hose system was dry, according to the complaint.

    Clearwater fire officials later found the hose system did have water, but the pipe at the center of the building -- the first place firefighters tapped -- had been shut off at the source.

    Inspectors also found several door closers had been removed by residents.

    On Tuesday, association president Frank Pound said the building had been inspected regularly. He scoffed at the lawsuit and accused firefighters of flawed tactics.

    "All the fire extinguishers worked," he said. "The water that they should have used worked."

    The fire started in the kitchen of a unit on the fifth floor, then smoldered and built for 28 minutes before firefighters were able to hit it with water.

    Clearwater fire officials said Dolphin Cove suffered a "flashover," a rare kind of explosion in a confined space that causes the very air to catch fire.

    The explosion felled 75-year-old Robert Kelly and 81-year-old Jean Zetterberg, both of whom died of their injuries.

    Lawyers representing Zetterberg's family have scheduled a news conference today at 10 a.m. Clearwater lawyer Greg Perenich said there is evidence to show the fire was not caused by Zetterberg's son, Charles. A fire investigation found the fire started on his stove, with a burner left on low.

    The city, meanwhile, is facing several lawsuits related to the fire, after it was discovered that a broken hydrant outside the building had not been repaired or tagged out of service.

    This fall, the city announced plans to seek two independent reviews of the fire after the Times published a report detailing numerous violations of the department's own guidelines and failures to follow accepted firefighting practices at Dolphin Cove.

    A woman who answered the phone at Colbert's home declined to comment Tuesday.

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  16. #16
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    OK, I've kept my mouth shut on most of this but I can't any longer. Clearwater is a neighboring department and I know quite a few of those guys. They seem to me to be a very competent group of people who know what they're doing. We've worked with them before on incidents with good results. I've tried to place myself in the shoes of the incident commander, the guy looks at the big yellow hose going to the FDC and he thinks, no problem. Then he finds out the hydrant is dry. Another engine lays in so he now believes he has recoverred. Nope, he is now trying to do diagnostics on the standpipe system while he has personnel inside. This poor guy is now so far behind the curve that recovery is almost impossible. Were mistakes made? Probably, perhaps certainly, but the problem with the hydrant and the standpipe system are in my opinion the obstacle that could never be overcome. This has been armchair quarterbacked to death, the I/C has taken some big hits, but I have to ask did ALL of the bldg safety devices work? Did the door to the room stay closed to confine the fire? The FDC obviously didn't work, the hydrant was broken. Did the residents correctly act to the alarm? If not then why? Just how many fatal flaws can be overcome by understaffed operations units?
    One of the things that has never been mentioned has been the incredible act of heroism on the part of at least one firefighter to save his partner. Say what you want about Clearwater FD, If they are all like this guy, I'll go anywhere with them.

  17. #17
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    Post Another Law Suit File By Victims Family

    I am in total agreement with BLACKSHEEP. None of us were there (at least I was not) and therefore do not know what transpired. As an incident commander I have also put myself in the IC's shoes and can only say..."better him than me." As he said...perhaps mistakes were made...again..we do not know....but great credit should be given to the department for overcoming the obstacles they faced and for stopping the fire as they did. And also...as he said...lets not overlook the heroic efforts of the firefighters to save not only thier own but the residents...

    ____________________________________

    Here is the link to the story relating to the family filing suit. I included the link rather than cut and pasting as it has a picture in it.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/01/09/No...ation_ch.shtml
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  18. #18
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    I tend to agree with Blacksheep in some ways, however we 'arm-chair quarter-back' these incidents in the hope we can learn lessons ourselves and hopefully educate firefighters in the important aspects of following laid down procedures. Wherever these are not followed there had better be a valid reason why!


  19. #19
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    Post Comparision?

    If someone posted the info, and I missed it, I apoligize, But what were the staffing levels and apparatus types/quantities dispatched on this incident? By way of comparision, yesterday afternoon I was one of the command staff on a fire here in Maryland. Scenario: 21/2 story frame single family home, fully involved on arrival of first unit. Dispatch was 3 Engine companies, 1 Ladder, 1 Heavy Rescue. Batt. Chief. Additional units were 1 engine which was on the street, cleared from another call and went as "extra", 1 BLS and 1 ALS ambulance, dispatched upon notification of a "working fire" per SOPs. and a special alarm for 1 additional Engine and 1 additional Ladder. A second Heavy Rescue was also added since they were somewhat closer than the ladder. Support units including the Air unit, Fire Investigations, PIO, EMS Supervisor and additional command staff brought the total staffing to about 48 people. No injuries to F/F staff, last unit cleared in less than 3 hours. This was a normal operation here. Stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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  20. #20
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    What do you say we critique Prevention and Inspection divisions with the same vigor we go after Operation units.

  21. #21
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    Originally posted by BLACKSHEEP1
    What do you say we critique Prevention and Inspection divisions with the same vigor we go after Operation units.
    This is the most intelligent thing anyone has said on these forums in a long time. But it's probably not totally fair to go after the grunts in these divisions. How about we look at the resources devoted to prevention? How about manning? How about the role that suppression people are asked to play, between fires, in this process.

    I hace commented here a million times that prevention in this country gets nothing but lip service. We ride around in $500 K engines, but the prevention guys ride around in cars with over 100,00 miles. What about prevention as an assignment? It's often a punishment. There is no career path in prevention in most departments.

    Blacksheep is right on the money and I would love to hear about the prevention issues as they relate to this incident.

  22. #22
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    Default Hmmm....

    I wonder if inspections for target hazards should be expanded include the hydrants nearby....?

  23. #23
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    If the hydrants were private, there should be a paper trail of who inspected it and when it was followed up on by prevention, this however was a city hydrant(if I'm not mistaken). Still,another line was laid from another hydrant but it didn't matter, the standpipe was non-functioning. When things don't progress or flow in a logical manner is the point at which problems start. Units waiting for water get aggressive and try to remove occupants, They burn energy by trying to establish another connection, etc etc. It's most likely that the firefighters natural aggression worked against them. This is when the IC has to be on top of his game,and to keep track of everyone. Clearly there was an organizational breakdown at this fire, but the chain of events that precipitated that breakdown, in my opinion, could not have been anticipated by the IC. This chain of events started with the actual ignition and progressed through the failure of several of the building safety systems. I feel that a absolute belief in the building safety system as foolproof, is the basis of the problem. The system(s) failed, there weren't enough firefighters to recover.
    This is most relevant in the fact that virtually all operations units base their tactical decisions on the belief that the building systems will operate (at least partially).
    With regards to prevention divisions having no career path, I would suggest in this area that the career path is mostly one of EMS, or at least EMS related. Keep in mind, we only fight fire 7% of the time, however it accounts for 97% of LODD. It pays to train, and even build up operations forces because of these numbers, but operations numbers are falling, and are being bolsterred by running ALS engines. These engines are then run as EMS units to a great extent, and possibly at the cost of fire related training. (but the ledger books look good).
    The other issue that I have, is that I would be extremely wary of a fire inspector who was not also a certified firefighter. There appears to be a trend where civilian inspectors are hired because they are less expensive than fire/inspectors. A friend of mine, who was an inspector, recently went through the fire academy. His eyes were now wide open to the ramifications of his decisions made as an inspector, they took on a new and practical meaning.
    Many prevention/inspection divisions are now focusing of things like public education, child car seat installation, block parties (as part of pub ed), all noble and worthwhile goals, as long as the primary function of building safety is met.( a better way of saying it would be applied public safety systems).
    Remember 7% is 97% LODD, that's the facts when crap hits the fan. And , one more time... how many fatal flaws are understaffed operations units expected to overcome?
    Last edited by BLACKSHEEP1; 01-11-2003 at 02:11 PM.

  24. #24
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    Any and all public ed is good. Remember the vast majority of our fires occur in the one place we can't inspect...private residences.

  25. #25
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    Yes, it's good, but there are some problems with it, one is that it is hard to quantify, not impossible, but difficult. The other problem is that it is done relatively easily, so you can do a lot of it with out much effort. Fire related training on the other hand usually uses up resources for the small amount of time you actually spend firefighting(7%) So it's harder to justify. (But then there's that 97% LODD number, maybe if we ignore it,maybe it will go away). I have actually heard a fire chief say that with only a 5 mil fire loss, the city could disband the fire dept and just pay off the property owners.So fires aren't a big deal?
    Let's look at this differently, maybe instead of fire loss, we should estimate what we have saved (including exposures), maybe instead of saying we had X amount of fire calls last year we should do what the military does and establish numbers based on individual units(sorties).
    For instance we ran (about) 50,000 calls last year. If 80% were EMS it would mean we ran only 10,000 fire calls. Or did we?
    Those 40,000 EMS calls were usually single unit, sometimes with an engine assist(such as codes,motor vehicles etc), but of that 10,000 calls that were fire related, they had from 2 to 7 units going on the first alarm (more if a hi-rise) so lets pick a number, say 5. Five units times the 10,000 is...whaddya know 50,000 calls!
    Here's another item, last year a department in our area had (about) 37 FF injuries, these were injuries caused by fires. However, if you look at the NFIRS (national fire incident report)those numbers almost double to (about) 70. These would be all injuries between the time the bell rang and the unit going available, on all calls. So it would seem that firefighter injuries at scenes other than fires don't count? Let me put that into perspective, at the end of the year 70 FF's would be almost equal to the minimum staffing of one shift(79).
    Now back to your original comment, yes all pub ed is good, but you can't quantify it, and I can quantify firefighter injuries, number of calls, and fire loss. So what is the higher priority, arbitrary pub-eds that look good, or public education through superior service deliverythat pays direct dividends to all invovled.
    I bet you right now, no one is looking at Clearwater Fire Dept and saying, "Gee....I don't know what the problem is,they give great pub-ed programs".

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