On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2008, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed nearly half of the Comfort Inn and Suites in the Town of Plattsburgh, NY. At the time of the fire, the building was occupied by approximately 120 people. The two-story building was built in 1988 of ordinary construction with a lightweight...
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After several hours of master stream and handline operations, command declared the fire under control at 7:30 P.M. Mutual aid departments began returning to their stations at 8 P.M. The Ausable Forks Fire Department was requested to the scene at 8:30 P.M. to assist with salvage and overhaul operations and remained on fire watch until 7 A.M. The last mutual aid was not released until 9:40 A.M., Sunday, Nov. 16.
Over 100 firefighters operated at the fire. Twenty-three engines; six rescues; three tower ladders; two air trucks and four ambulances responded to the scene. Fire department equipment that was damaged or destroyed included a thermal imaging camera, 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose; 200 feet of 2½-inch hose; two nozzles; boots; gloves; radios and hand tools. The majority of the equipment was lost when the lobby roof collapsed and firefighters abandoned their interior positions. Also assisting at the scene were New York State Police, Plattsburgh City Police, Clinton County Sheriff's Department, Plattsburgh City Water Department, Town of Plattsburgh Water Department, New York State Electric and Gas, and the American Red Cross.
Clinton County arson investigators, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control arson investigators and private insurance investigators conducted an on-site investigation. County and state investigators determined that the fire originated in the sauna/pool area caused by an electrical malfunction. The insurance company investigation is ongoing at this time. Damage was estimated at $10 million. Areas of the building that were destroyed included the lobby, restaurant, bar, gym, pool and locker rooms. Areas that were damaged were the banquet hall and game room.
The fire consumed approximately 40,000 square feet of the 100,000-square-foot building. Firefighters credit the presence of fire walls in limiting the fire spread to the guest rooms. Even though the building was sprinklered, fire rapidly spread above the sprinklers engulfing a portion of the building. Weather conditions at the time of the fire were rainy with a temperature of 50 degrees.
Value of Training
This complex was located on a five-lane highway at the entrance to a major shopping complex. Traffic caused immense congestion in the area that required the closing of several streets and a major highway. Traffic control by fire police, local and state police alleviated the problem.
Numerous pre-plans for this structure had been developed in the past giving firefighters knowledge of the building layout. Knowledge of and training on hydrants in the area proved beneficial as initial water supply problems were quickly resolved by using hydrants on two different water systems. Continuous training with mutual aid departments allowed for seamless operations. The command structure used by the department and Clinton County along with continuous training with mutual aid departments allowed for seamless operations with the numerous departments involved in the incident.
JAY K. BRADISH/IFPA, Firehouse® news editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and fire photographer for more than 25 years.