MONTREAL FIRE DEPARTMENT Director Romeo Noel Personnel: 1,662 career firefighters Apparatus: 44 pumps, 31 trucks, nine manpower squads, three special units Population: 1 million Area: 74.3 square miles The Montreal Urban Community's enhanced 911 system serves the 2.8 million...
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The exposure to the east of number 310 St. Antoine St. was a three-story, occupied commercial and residential building at number 320. There was a five-inch space between the brick wall of number 310 and that of number 320. To the north across St. Antoine Street, which is about 65 feet wide, is a five-story office building of concrete and steel construction at number 333. To the west, across Gosford Street, is a large open area around an entrance to one of the city's subway stations.
On Saturday evening, Nov. 4, 1995, there were about 50 people in the police headquarters building, including 14 of the 911 Center operators. At 8:19 P.M., the 911 Center received a call from a security guard in the basement of the police headquarters reporting smoke coming from the building across the street at 311 St. Louis. The call was transferred to the Montreal Fire Department Communications Center.
Photo by Ian Stronach
Direct flame impingement on the fourth and fifth floors, intense radiant heat and flying brands threatened to spread the fire to the police headquarters building across the street.
The Communications Center dispatched a Category 4 (high risk) assignment of Pumps 220, 225 and 319, Platform 720, Ladder 405, Squad 513 and District Operations Chief 136, Gaetan Lariviere, at 8:20 P.M. Firefighters on first-due Pump 220 and Platform 720 on leaving their station a quarter of a mile to the west on St. Antoine Street could smell smoke. When they were four blocks from the building, they could see smoke in the area.
Platform 720 was first on the scene at 8:22 P.M. Lieutenant Sylvain Vermette told the driver to turn down St. Louis Street. Before the truck came to a stop, Lieutenant Vermette gave the following report, "10-07 (working fire), four-story building with smoke and fire showing." Flames were shooting from two windows on each of the third and fourth floors at the east end of number 311. Platform 720 began to set up in front of the building. One minute later, at 8:23 P.M., Vermette requested the second alarm as flames started to spread rapidly across the third and fourth floors in a westward direction. At 8:24, he requested the third alarm as heavy fire began showing from the second floor as well.
Pump 220, under the command of Captain Richard Bibeau, had been right behind the Platform 720. As they turned the corner off St. Antoine Street onto Gosford Street, Bibeau recalls, "I saw light smoke coming from the front of the building (310 St. Antoine St.), I could see the reflection of the flames on the wall of the police headquarters and there was a lot of smoke at the corner of St. Louis Street. There was nothing showing on the Gosford side of the building."
On his orders, the driver and crew laid dual three-inch supply lines from the hydrant in front of the fire building at Gosford and St. Antoine streets to the corner of Gosford and St. Louis streets. Firefighters took two three-inch handlines down St. Louis Street to attack the fire from the outside.
In the meantime, third-due Pump 319 had arrived at the east end of St. Louis Street. Firefighters brought two additional three-inch handlines down St. Louis Street to attack the fire. In addition, they began setting up to supply Platform 720's master stream. Ladder 405 had pulled into the yard next to the fire building to set up the ladder. With the fire spreading at a speed rarely seen, Vermette requested the fourth and fifth alarms at 8:29 P.M.
Lariviere arrived as the fourth and fifth alarms were being transmitted. He recalls, "I arrived and saw heavy black smoke pouring from the windows of 302 and 310 St. Antoine. On St. Louis Street I noted a very rapid flame propagation toward the west end of the building. The windows on the second, third and fourth floors were lighting up simultaneously."
Map by Ian Stronach
Heavy fire was also through the roof. An exterior defensive attack was mounted using three-inch handlines, deluge guns and elevated master streams on St. Louis and Gosford streets. Second-alarm companies were setting up at the same time on the St. Antoine Street side. Within five minutes the fire had spread to number 307 and now involved three floors of both buildings.
The fire was now throughout the two buildings. Lariviere recalls, "Once the fire was showing from all the windows on the south side (St. Louis Street), flames started showing from windows on the north side (St. Antoine Street), but on this side of the building they lit up simultaneously, floor by floor from the fourth to the third and then to the second."