Sept. 11, 2001 – or now known to many as just 9/11 – is a date which will be remembered long after most of us reading this are gone. The worst terrorist attack to strike the United States occurred when two hijacked commercial passenger jetliners crashed into the upper floors of New York City’s...
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Eight more engine companies and two more ladder companies were dispatched. The FDNY uses a computer-aided dispatch system. The computer monitors the closest engine companies and ladder companies. At this time, 20 engine companies and eight ladder companies were responding from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Several special units were responding from the Bronx and Queens.
When the first five alarms were transmitted, many firefighters were just coming to the end of their shift. Other firefighters were scheduled to continue working by swapping shifts. Still others were just reporting for duty. When the alarm for the Trade Center was received by computer in the firehouse where companies were assigned on the alarm, in some cases extra firefighters jumped on the apparatus because of the nature of the incident. Firefighters responded from many directions to the Trade Center.
The first jet to strike the north side of Tower 1 did so in between the 96th and 103rd floors. Apparently, jet fuel started a fire that extended to several upper floors. The jet fuel flowed down onto elevators, burning several occupants. These people needed help when the elevator opened on the first floor.
Firefighters arrived and started to help civilians needing medical assistance. Other firefighters arrived and were given orders to start walking up of one the tower’s three stairways. In a high-rise fire, firefighters try to use one stairway as an evacuation stairway and the other stairway for fire attack. Firefighters from engine companies consist of four to five firefighters and under the command of a lieutenant or captain. Their assignment is to carry self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), 50-foot rolls of hose (three to a company), nozzles and tools to control the water from standpipes inside the building.
The driver of the engine company connects hose from the fire hydrant to the apparatus and supplies the building’s standpipe with additional water at great pressures to reach the upper floors. The standard engine company has a 1,000-gpm pump. Six engine companies equipped with 2,000 gpm pumps are assigned to the Satellite Water System. There are seven high-pressure engine companies capable of pumping 500 gpm at 700 psi for use in high-rise operations.
The World Trade Center towers were protected by an automatic sprinkler system, but the crashes apparently damaged the system. Such jets are capable of carrying a massive amount of fuel. Shortly after takeoff for a cross-country trip, the fuel tanks were apparently fully loaded and the jet fuel created an intense fire. Other firefighters reported finding additional burn victims on the first floor of the north tower.
Fire alarm dispatchers received numerous reports from trapped occupants in the 110-story structure. A command post was set up across the street from the complex at West and Vesey streets. Numerous police and ambulances responded to the scene. Ambulances were staged across the street, west of the tower.
At 9:03 A.M., another Boeing 767 struck the south tower between the 87th and 93rd floors. Units on the scene notified dispatch of the second incident. The chief of special operations, Deputy Chief Ray Downey, was still enroute when he radioed the Manhattan fire alarm radio dispatcher and suggested a separate five-alarm assignment to respond to the 2 World Trade Center, the south tower. Ganci concurred and told the dispatcher to dispatch a fifth alarm. Another 20 engine companies, eight ladder companies and several chiefs were assigned.
Because of the large amount of units already dispatched to the first tower, engines and ladders from outlying areas were relocated to empty firehouses near the original scene. Originally assigned units were operating or enroute to the first incident. The nearest fire companies now assigned to the new incident had to respond from a distance, and dispatchers were trying to keep ahead of the anticipated request for additional apparatus.
Several staging areas were set up at firehouses around the city where additional outlying apparatus were directed. From these locations large amounts of apparatus could respond in convoys and be close to the scene if needed. Because Manhattan is an island, apparatus must respond from other boroughs via bridges or tunnels. A two-alarm assignment consisting of eight engines, four trucks and three battalion chiefs were staged on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The Manhattan side of the tunnel is located about four blocks from the incident. This assignment was requested and dispatched to the scene allowing numerous firefighters and apparatus to respond quickly and operate where needed.