Richmond Virginia Firefighters Battle Tough Easter Three-Alarmer

City of Richmond firefighters didn't know it yet, but the fire beast had its claws sunk deep into a group of medical buildings. Soon the alarm would sound and they would be called to do battle in the cold and misty morning hours.

Easter, March 23, 0230 hours -- The loud alarm pierced the air throughout Richmond Stations, summoning firefighters. It would not be easy fight.

A passerby had called 911 and reported smoke coming from 204 N. Hamilton St.

"The building was a medical facility that encompasses numerous doctors' offices," explained Lt Mike Oprandy of Richmond Fire and Emergency Services.

Dispatched on the initial alarm were Quint 18, Truck 10, Quint 12, Quint 19, Rescue 2, and Battalion 2.

"Quint 18 arrived on the scene and reported heavy smoke showing from a one story office complex," Oprandy explained. "Battalion 2 arrived at the same time and drove around to the rear of the complex and reported fire showing from an office window on side Charlie. Quint 18 advanced an attack line to the office that was burning and began attacking the fire. Truck 10 assumed ventilation and forcible entry tasks while Rescue two began a search for occupants and fire spread. After the initial knock-down of the visible fire in the office, heavy smoke conditions continued be present. Battalion 2 called for the working fire upgrade which brought Quint 14, Quint 6 and Rescue 1 to the scene."

Officials said that companies on the interior continued to open up the walls and ceiling looking for hidden fire; none was found. Conditions still did not improve and fire began to show itself in multiple office rooms. Firefighters advanced lines to the involved areas, put the fire out and by the time they would relocate, the room they had just left would re-ignite.

Quint 6 performed vertical ventilation and reported no visible fire after opening up the roof. A second alarm was sounded to bring more firefighters and resources to the scene of this stubborn blaze.

The hunt for the source continued and firefighters discovered that the fire was running through the crawl space under the building and popping up all over the place. Companies began opening up the floors in numerous areas of the building where they encountered heavy fire conditions.

At one point, Orpandy said, the fire seemed to take control of the entire first floor and companies were evacuated. Firefighters regained control of the fire and again began interior operations, a third alarm was called. It became impossible for the vent saws to run in the inside of the building due to the smoke conditions. After a long and exhausting battle, interior operations were aborted due to a partial floor collapse. The building was evacuated and master streams were set up for a defensive operation. Quint 6 preformed a trench cut in the roof in anticipation of a defensive stand, and this is where the fire stopped.

Veteran Richmond firefighters said it was one of the hardest fought fires in recent memory.