On The Job - Colorado: Fire at Office-Supply Factory Tests Castle Rock Crews

Matt Rettmer details a reported fire in a commercial structure in Castle Rock, CO.


On May 18, 2007, at 10:50 P.M., the Castle Rock, CO, Fire and Rescue Department was dispatched to 701 Topeka Way for a reported fire in a commercial structure. The caller identified himself as an off-duty firefighter and said he could see flames on the roof of a large office-supply factory. The...


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Twenty-seven minutes after the second alarm, a third alarm was transmitted. These units were used for rehab and overhaul. The third alarm brought the following companies: Engine 40, Ladder 34 (South Metro), Engines 141 and 142 (Jackson 105 volunteer companies) and Battalion Chief 7 (Parker). At this point, the main body of fire had been extinguished and the first-arriving companies needed rehab.

As the third-alarm companies arrived, the incident commander and division commanders to assess the structure's integrity and stability. The main body of fire was of most concern because it was learned that the roof assembly was of double-T concrete construction with major spalling and cracking damage. This area was secured and restricted from all companies working in and over the structure.

By now, the building owner had arrived and provided detailed information of the interior layout and contents to the incident commander. The owner also alerted command of some hazardous materials in the C/D corner. The possible hazmats were hydrochloric acid and other solvents and cleaners necessary for the maintenance of the specialized equipment. Engine 153, upon exiting the second time for air bottle changes, was assigned to recon the rest of the building for possible hazardous materials. The crew began its investigation near the front office. After making their way into the work area, the firefighters encountered high-rack shelves loaded with books and museum materials. Smoke conditions were still making navigation difficult.

Engine 153 then encountered something unexpected. As the firefighters traveled through the narrow passages, they encountered a full-size polar that had been mounted in a standing position. The bear stood about five feet tall and was looking them right in the face. The crew continued to search for hazardous materials, but due to conditions could not find the exact area of the product. Ladder 34 crew, using Engine 39, staffed a hoseline during this recon. At the same time, Quint 155 (still on the roof) worked with Engine 39 (inside the building) to extinguish hot spots in the high-rack storage. Companies inside were unable to directly extinguish many of the spot fires. A 200-foot 1¾-inch handline with 6% foam was stretched from Engine 154 on side B to the roof for Quint 155 to extinguish the fires. Quint 155 and Engine 39 coordinated these attacks so no one was endangered by falling debris.

At this point, there was still significant smoke throughout the building with some heat. The entire building was constructed of concrete and it was determined that South Metro Fan 3 would be used to vent the remaining smoke. Fan 3 can push 750,000 cfm of fresh air. The fan is an eight-blade carbon-fiber prop powered by a Chevy 502 engine. Before the fan was turned on, all crews were removed from the building. Two companies were positioned with handlines to extinguish any spot fires that may result from the influx of positive pressure. Engine 154 was positioned at the doorway on side B and Engine 39 was just outside door A. Shortly after the fan was started, smoke conditions improved and some minor spot fires flared up, but were controlled by the companies.

At 3 A.M., the scene was under control. Building inspectors were on the scene to evaluate the structural integrity of the building and it was confirmed that the B/C area was the most heavily damaged and unsafe to enter. This area was secured and no one was allowed in the immediate area. Engines 154 and 151 remained on the scene until 7 A.M., at which time the next shift took over the fire watch and security of the building. Damage to building was estimated at $1 million and another $1 million to the contents. Most of the museum materials were preserved and most of the machinery and supplies for the business was salvaged.

A week later, demolition and restoration crews were on the scene and preparing to remove the heavily damaged double-T's when unexpectedly part of the roof assembly collapsed. The same fire companies that responded to the fire a week earlier were dispatched to this structure collapse. Command determined that no one was injured and no entry would be allowed until the demolition company completed full stabilization of the building. The company relocated some of the machinery and equipment to resume production.