Houston Firefighters Make Dramatic Rescues at Office Fire

Tom McDonald reports on a fire that claimed the lives of three workers in a partially sprinklered high-rise building.


A wind-fanned blaze tore through the top two floors of an occupied, mid-rise, atrium office building on Houston's east side during the evening rush hour on March 28, 2007. Three civilians died, but Houston Fire Department (HFD) firefighters manning aerial ladders rescued many others who were trapped...


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9. Similarly, an incident commander can usually only see one side of a building well and maybe just one other side partially, so observations of any exterior structural problems (falling or hanging debris, cracks in walls, etc.) should be relayed to the incident commander quickly by anyone with a radio, not just an officer. An incident safety officer (ISO) should be immediately dispatched to examine the problem further, cordon off the area if needed, and give a follow up report to the incident commander. Obviously, any apparatus that positions close to a structure initially to perform aerial rescue should later be repositioned if structural integrity becomes questionable.

10. Pouring tons of water into the upper floors of a structure such as this can pose serious risks for various types of collapse, even hours later when the fire might appear to be out and firefighter access might appear possible. Five hours after this fire started, a large section of an upper floor collapsed onto the floor below it, sending tons of water cascading out the windows of the building, further weakening the overall structure. Never go inside such a building until it has been fully evaluated by structural experts, a process which could take days. There is just too much risk and absolutely no reward.


DISPATCH LOG
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

9343 North Loop East (IH 610) and Gellhorn Drive Office building on fire

5:16 P.M. - First alarm: Engines 45, 41, 43, 27; Ladders 45, 44; Districts 45, 20; Safety 23; Medic 43; Shift Commander (Deputy) 27

5:23 - Second alarm: Engines 32, 20, 19, 53, 8; Ladders 20, 34; Tower 18; District Chiefs 19, 34, 8; Rescues 11, 42; Rehab 17; EMS Supervisor 17; Communication 11; plus numerous EMS units

5:43 - Third alarm: Engines 15, 39, 12, 17; Ladders 56, 29; EMS Supervisors 11, 33

6:06 - Fourth alarm (by dispatcher, automatic for Mayday): Engines 13, 60, 75, 83; Ladder 7; Tower 6