Firehouse Fires

Jay K. Bradish describes an ironic occurrence that happened to several firehouses around the country and how members coped.


I'm devastated we're all devastated by this. In one incident, we've lost all of our emergency response apparatus and most of our building. While it's horrible, we are extremely fortunate that no one was injured," Chief Tim Butters of the Burke, VA, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department said a few...


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I'm devastated we're all devastated by this. In one incident, we've lost all of our emergency response apparatus and most of our building. While it's horrible, we are extremely fortunate that no one was injured," Chief Tim Butters of the Burke, VA, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department said a few hours after a fire destroyed the fire station. Also known as Fire Station 14 in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the building and apparatus are owned by the volunteer department.

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Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue
Several firefighters had to escape their sleeping quarters after a blaze broke out in the Burke, VA, Volunteer Fire Department's quarters.

 


11_97_firehouse2.jpg
Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue
The fire at the Burke, VA, fire station destroyed the cab on Rescue Squad 14.

 

At 1:47 A.M. on Jan. 10, 1997, Fairfax County Firefighter Mark Lucas of A shift awoke to the faint odor of smoke in the second-floor bunk room. Opening the passage door to the stairs leading to the apparatus bay area, firefighters found the bay area fully charged with smoke. Captain John Caussin immediately called the Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC) to report the fire.

Nine Fairfax County career firefighters were in the second-floor bunkroom and exited via an outside stairway. Hana Brilliant, a Burke volunteer, was sleeping in the women's bunkroom on the first floor and was awakened by the station tones being transmitted by the PSCC. She found the bay area untenable and was forced to escape out a window, assisted by the engine crew members who had by then come around the building.

Another volunteer, Eric Heitz, sleeping in a satellite bunkroom just off the apparatus bay, also escaped. Once outside, firefighters could see that the heavy rescue truck was fully involved with fire extending into the ceiling and roof area. The entire bay area was now filled with heavy black smoke. Efforts were made to open the bay doors but due to the loss of electrical power they could not be opened. It was only about 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and with no protective clothing the firefighters took refuge in the lobby of a post office across the street.

Responding on the box alarm were Engines 27, 32, 3 and 23; Rescue Squad 26; Truck 3; EMS 5 and Battalion 5. Paramedic Engine 27, with a crew of four, arrived at 1:55 and laid dual 300-foot supply lines from a hydrant on Burke Road to the front of the station on Burke Lake Road. Engine 27 Captain Roger Souders found heavy smoke showing and immediately requested a second alarm. Crew members advanced one 1 3/4-inch pre-connect through the front door into the apparatus bay.

Fairfax County Battalion Chief Chris Hunter arrived on scene at 1:57 and assumed command. He reported that Heavy Rescue Squad 14 was on fire with extension to the building. Engine 32 arrived at 1:59 and was positioned on Burke Road at a hydrant for water supply and charged the supply lines to Engine 27. Engine 3 pumper arrived a minute later and took the rear sector. This crew and the crew from Engine 32 were able to make entry through the overhead door and remove the two ambulances and the brush truck.

Engine 23 was positioned at the front of the structure and pulled another 1 3/4-inch pre-connect to back up the crew from Engine 27. Truck 1 was positioned in front of the building and its crew used power saws to open up the bay doors. Squad 26 firefighters conducted a search of the living quarters. Butters arrived from home and provided operations assistance at the command post but did not take command of the incident. Second-alarm units Engines 8, 22, 35; Truck 8; Medic 32; Light/Air 13; EMS 2; Canteen 8 and Battalion Chief John White were staged in a parking lot across the street from the station. The fire was knocked down in 20 minutes with mop-up operations continuing until 6 A.M.

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