On The Job - Florida: Multi-Alarm Fire Destroys Polk County Warehouse

Jay K. Bradish reports that training in deploying handlines deep into large buildings let interior crews in an exposure quickly deploy an effective defense against a spreading fire.


On Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed a 97,440-square-foot warehouse at the Central Florida Business Park in Polk County, FL. The one-story structure was built in 1974 of Type I construction with a metal roof on metal trusses and was equipped with an automatic sprinkler system...


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On Monday, Feb. 11, 2008, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed a 97,440-square-foot warehouse at the Central Florida Business Park in Polk County, FL. The one-story structure was built in 1974 of Type I construction with a metal roof on metal trusses and was equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. The warehouse was used for manufacturing and storing cardboard boxes for the vegetable-, poultry- and fish-packing industry. The facility also contained a wax-cascading operation for coating cardboard boxes. A fire wall separated it from a connected 300,000-square-foot warehouse of the same type of construction (exposure B). A total of 11 buildings were in the business park.

Polk County Fire Rescue was dispatched for an automatic fire alarm at the Packaging Corporation of America warehouse at 5300 Recker Highway at 5:28 P.M. Engine 15, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Ladder 13, a 50-foot TeleSqurt with a 1,250-gpm pump, responded under the command of Battalion Chief Joe Stewart. Auburndale Engine 3, a 1,500-gpm pumper, responded on automatic mutual aid.

Upon arrival, Lieutenant Ed Taylor on Engine 15 reported heavy smoke showing from all openings in the structure with heavy fire visible in the center of the building and rapidly advancing outward. Employees had self-evacuated upon the arrival of the first units and were coordinating the removal of tractor-trailers that were exposed to the fire. Taylor assumed initial command and initiated defensive operations. Engine 15 was positioned on side A and supplied with a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant. Ladder 13 was positioned on side A and set up for master-stream operations and fed via a 200-foot, five-inch line from Engine 15. The aerial master stream was directed horizontally through an open loading dock door toward the center of the building. Auburndale Engine 3 was positioned on side A of exposure B and hooked onto a hydrant with a 20-foot joint of soft suction. This engine connected to the building's fire department connection with dual 100-foot, three-inch lines.

Command requested a second alarm at 5:54 P.M. Polk County Engines 23 and 24, both 1,250-gpm pumpers, responded with six firefighters. Winter Haven Ladder 1, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,250-gpm pump, and Lakeland Engine 21, a 1,250-gpm pumper, responded with seven firefighters. Deputy Chief Mike Linkins arrived at 5:46 and assumed command of the incident.

Four large steel rollup doors were located along the connecting wall of the B-side exposure, all of which could allow fire spread to the connected warehouse. Engines 23 and 24 were assigned to interior operations of the B-side exposure. These crews advanced three 2½-inch lines and two 1¾-inch lines into the interior of the connected warehouse. Engine 32 was positioned on side A and supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch line. Initially, this engine pumped two 100-foot, three-inch supply lines to two ground monitors placed in the loading dock to slow the spread of the fire and protect the fire wall of exposure B. Once the ground monitors were in place, the manpower from Engine 32 and Ladder 8 assisted the crews operating in the B exposure. Winter Haven Ladder 1 was positioned on side A, near the A/B corner, and fed by a 100-foot, five-inch line from Engine 32. Tanker 15 was staged and its crew was assigned to fire suppression operations.

Linkins requested a third alarm at 7 P.M. The Bartow Fire Department responded with Ladder 1, a 105-foot aerial ladder with a 2,000-gpm pump. This ladder was positioned on side C across railroad tracks and supplied with a 700-foot, five-inch hydrant line. This aerial master stream was used to protect the integrity of the fire wall and prevent the spread of the fire to exposure B.

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