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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At the same time, the operator of Engine 15 helped the Engine 16 operator establish the water supply. When that was completed, Engine 15's operator was assigned the Operations Sector. Truck 16's operator climbed the aerial ladder and entered the third-floor apartment from the balcony. Upon entering, he encountered heavy smoke and a large volume of fire in the kitchen area of the unit. He searched the apartment and exited back to the ladder. Meanwhile, on the terrace level, the interior crew removed the victim to the outside and awaited EMS before returning to the building and advancing a 1¾-inch handline into the fire apartment. The kitchen was well involved. The crew knocked down the fire and realized it was rapidly extending up the common ventilation shaft.

After the fire was controlled in the original fire apartment, the crew withdrew and advanced the line to the second floor to search for victims and attack the fire. Engine 24 arrived on scene at 7:52 and was assigned to complete searches on the third floor. This crew took a 1¾-inch handline and proceeded up the stairwell. They made entry to the lobby and began to encounter fire. Unable to complete further searches, they began to attack the fire from their location. By this point, the fire had spread via the ventilation shaft to apartments on all floors. It had also spread to the attic where it was growing rapidly. The fire had a strong hold of two of the four third-floor apartments and had self vented from windows on three sides of the building.

Truck 16's operator repositioned the ladder to the roof in anticipation of incoming crews being assigned to ventilation. Command assigned Engine and Truck 19 to enter the scene via Northern Way and to access the B and C sides of the building as best as possible. Truck 19 was first to arrive and dropped a line at Eastern Boulevard and Northern Way and laid into the C side of the building. Due to a dead-end street, trees and soft ground from recent snowmelt and rain, the truck had to remain on the road approximately 100 yards away. Crews from Engine and Truck 19 advanced several 2½-inch lines to the C side of the building. At 7:59 P.M., command requested the third alarm for additional manpower. Engine 25 from North York Boro, Truck 1 from West York Boro, Rescue 8-4-1 from Columbia Boro and Ambulance 19 from York Township filled this assignment.

In the next few minutes, conditions deteriorated rapidly. The smoke issuing from the soffit increased in volume and pressure as well as darkening from brownish gray to black. Fire volume in the involved apartments increased and small pockets of fire began to break through the roof at the ridgeline. At 8:03, command evacuated the building. As the evacuation tones were sounded, the entire attic space flashed over and heavy fire vented from the soffit on the A and C sides of the building.

Within seconds of evacuating the third-floor lobby where Engine 24's crew had been operating, it was heavily involved in fire. A personnel accountability report (PAR) was conducted and after all crews were accounted for, the switch to a defensive operation was made. Truck 1 was assigned to the A side of the exposure building to trench the roof and protect the exposure. Crews from Engine 21 and Engine 15 were assigned to the interior of the exposure to run handlines and pull ceilings to prevent any extension into this building. Engine 25 was assigned to Eastern Boulevard and Northern Way to pick up and pump the hydrant supplying Truck 19 operating on the C side. Rescue 8-4-1 was assigned as a second rapid intervention team and positioned near the A-B corner. Rapid Intervention Team 34 had previously been assigned to a position on the A side of the structure. Engine 16 began flowing its deck gun and advanced a portable master stream on side A. Truck 16's ladder suffered heavy fire involvement when the attic flashed over, but was still operable and flowed its elevated master stream on the A side as well. Truck 19 flowed its elevated master stream as well as several 2½-inch lines on the C side of the building.

Once it was clear that the fire would not spread to the adjoining structure on the D side, the water supply was briefly shut down so that Engine 24 could be placed on the original hydrant on Carnegie Road to boost pressure to the multiple master streams now in operation. At 8:41, command requested an additional engine for manpower. Engine 9-1 from Dover Township was assigned. For nearly two hours, units flowed master streams on the structure and command declared the incident under control at 10 o'clock.