Suicide Attempt Sparks 3-Alarm Fire At Pennsylvania Apartment Complex

Brian Bastinelli reports on a three-alarm fi re in an apartment complex that left 50 residents homeless and was sparked by a woman piling combustibles on a stove.


A woman's failed attempt to kill herself by piling combustible materials on a stove and setting them ablaze resulted in a three-alarm fire in an apartment complex that left 50 residents homeless. It was at 7:34 on a rainy Saturday night that York County, PA, Emergency Communications...


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A woman's failed attempt to kill herself by piling combustible materials on a stove and setting them ablaze resulted in a three-alarm fire in an apartment complex that left 50 residents homeless.

It was at 7:34 on a rainy Saturday night that York County, PA, Emergency Communications dispatched a first-alarm assignment of three engines, a truck, an EMS unit and a duty officer to a smoke odor in an apartment building at 2663 Carnegie Road in Springettsbury Township. Springettsbury Township Engine 16 with two firefighters, Truck 16 with two firefighters, Ambulance 16 with two EMT/firefighters and Duty Officer Rich Mellon responded. Spring Garden Township Engine 15 with two firefighters responded on automatic mutual aid. A third engine was out of service due to a temporary station closure as a result of damage from a recent ice storm. Those two firefighters rode out of Station 16 on the engine and truck.

The address was a familiar one and has been the site of many responses for automatic alarms, medical calls and routine incidents. On Christmas Eve 1989, the complex was the scene of a major fire resulting in the total loss of one building. The Suburban Park Apartments is a 15-acre complex with 22 buildings, each containing 11 apartments. The complex is entirely ordinary construction and was built in the late 1960s. Each building is three stories with a center lobby and stair tower. The lowest level is called the terrace level and contains three apartments; the second and third floors each contain four apartments. The terrace level is a half-flight of stairs down when entering on the A side and exposed at ground level on the C side of the building.

The duty officer arrived on the A side of the building and reported nothing showing from that side. With in a minute, Engine 16 and Truck 16 arrived at the same location. With the additional light from the apparatus, the duty officer could see light smoke from the soffit on the A side of the structure. He established Suburban Park Command and requested the assignment be upgraded to a working fire response, which would bring two additional engines. As crews moved toward the building, they noticed smoke coming from heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) vents on the second floor.

Command immediately requested a second alarm, knowing the incident would require more manpower. Because this request was made within a minute of the working-fire assignment request, the 911 center dispatched the assignments together at 7:40. These assignments brought Engine 21 from Hellam, Engine 24 from Manchester Township, Engine 19 and Truck 19 from York Township and Rapid Intervention Team 34 from Red Lion Boro as well as a recall for off-duty Springettsbury Township firefighters.

Engine 15 arrived and laid a five-inch line into the complex from a hydrant on Carnegie Road. One member of Ambulance 16's crew stood by at the hydrant, made the connection and charged the supply line. Engine 16's operator began establishing water supply and then advanced a 1¾-inch handline to the front door for the interior crew to utilize. Truck 16's operator set up the truck to access the third-floor balcony. The riders of Engine 16 and Truck 16 paired up and entered the building to locate the fire and conduct searches. At this time, residents were still evacuating and it was unclear how many remained in the building.

Once in the lobby, the crew encountered a light to moderate smoke condition. The firefighters headed to the second floor, where evacuating residents reported a fire on the first floor. Immediately, they proceeded to that area and found heavy black smoke issuing from a hot door. The crew entered the apartment, encountering high heat and heavy black smoke. After moving in only a few feet, they ran into the occupant standing in front of them. She took one step toward the firefighters and collapsed. The crew reported the find to command and began to drag the woman from apartment. In the lobby, a firefighter from Engine 15 assisted in removing the over-200-pound victim. Once notified of a victim, command requested more ambulances to the scene. This brought Ambulance 13 from Spring Garden Township and Medic 102 from Memorial Hospital. Medic 97 from York Hospital was in the area and was also committed to the incident.

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