On The Job - Montreal: 911 Center Evacuated During 5-Alarm Fire

Ian Stronach provides coverage of a multiple-alarm fire that threatened the city’s emergency communications network.


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...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Lariviere continues, "I immediately ordered all personnel away from the building to a safe distance as I had reason to believe that a collapse was going to occur."

In addition to the collapse hazard the radiant heat became unbearable. Conditions on St. Louis Street became so hot that Pump 220 was in danger of catching fire. Firefighters had to shut down the deluge gun and handlines and move the truck. They could not shut off the hydrant as it was right next to the fully involved building. There was enough slack in the supply lines that the pump could be moved south on Gosford Street to in front of the police building without disconnecting the lines. The pump was moved again farther up Gosford Street where the supply lines could be shut down with hose clamps and additional lengths added.

At the same time, Platform 720 and Ladder 405 on St. Louis Street were moved to the east. Firefighters from Pump 319 also retreated east on St. Louis Street to a safe distance. Ladder 403, which had set up master stream operations at the corner of Gosford and St. Antoine streets, was also being subjected to extreme radiant heat and had to be moved quickly. A strong wind was blowing across the fire building directly at the police headquarters. Driven by the wind, the flames exiting from every window on the St. Louis Street side of the buildings soon combined to create a wall of fire that stretched across St. Louis Street and impinged directly on the wall of the municipal court half of the police building.

4_96_montreal4.jpg
Photo by Ian Stronach
Within 15 minutes of the first alarm, the two buildings were fully involved.

Lariviere recalls, "The flames came out the windows under pressure and extended 20 to 30 feet horizontally to break the windows in sector 3, the police building."

Once relocated, firefighters at the east and west ends of St. Louis Street immediately redirected their deluge, handline and elevated master streams onto the north wall of the police headquarters but they had no effect. The exposed part of the police building was over 150 feet long. Even master streams were vaporizing before they reached the middle of the building.

The threat to the police building was even further heightened by flying brands. Lariviere recounts, "Within a few minutes, brands from the roof of the building were flying 50 feet in the air and onto the roof of the police headquarters."

Early in the fire, Lariviere had realized that the police building was in grave danger of becoming involved. There was direct flame impingement on the fourth and fifth floors, intense radiant heat, windows breaking on every floor and flying brands landing on the roof. lt was obvious that without a massive effort the fire would propagate into the police headquarters. Pump 225, which had been relay pumping to Pump 220, was redirected to pump the standpipe system in the police building.

As fast as multiple alarm companies arrived they were deployed inside. Firefighters stretched multiple three-inch and 1 3/4-inch lines from standpipes onto every floor. They concentrated their efforts on the fourth and fifth floors, where the effects of the flame impingement and radiant heat were greatest. From inside streams were directed at the broken windows. In addition, firefighters opened up the walls and ceilings adjacent to the windows to ensure that the fire did not spread into the concealed spaces.

For at least 10 minutes there was direct flame impingement on the fourth and fifth floors for half the length of the building. Over 50 windows were broken by the heat. Additional firefighters were sent to the roof to extinguish fires that had started due to the flying brands.

Those parts of the building not directly affected by flames and heat began filling with smoke as the fresh-air intake is on the roof. The 911 Center has an air supply independent from the rest of the building. However, it too has its fresh-air inlet on the roof. Due to the heavy smoke condition on the roof the two air handling systems had to be shut down. Conditions in the building had become untenable. It was clear that all the occupants of the building had to be evacuated, including those in the 911 Center.