On The Job - St. Louis

Frank C. Schaper recounts six multiple-alarm fires that made for one of the busiest months in the history of the St. Louis Fire Department.


St. Louis Fire Department Chief Neil J. Svetanics Personnel: 680 career firefighters Apparatus: 34 quints, two heavy-duty rescue squads Population: 400,000 Area: 62.4 square miles As cool fall temperatures settled in over the Midwest, things were heating up in the City of St. Louis...


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The fire apparently started in the attic and took control of the roof. Heavy fire issued from the roof and rear of the building. Interior operations were hampered by heavy smoke and fire conditions. Crews were quickly brought outside the building and pre-positioned quint aerials opened up on the fire. This defensive operation brought the fire under control and interior handlines were once again deployed to mop up the fire.

The month's activities were rounded out on Oct. 31 with a general-alarm fire (five alarms plus extra equipment) in a north-side warehouse containing numerous 55-gallon drums of unknown chemicals. The warehouse, located at Angelica and Broadway streets, threatened another nearby warehouse containing anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The unknown chemicals and fertilizer were a major concern to firefighters battling the blaze. Extra companies were special called to the scene by chief officers working the fire.

As heavy fire streams protected the threatened warehouse, the fertilizer was removed to an area of safety. Other large-caliber streams concentrated on the fire. The fire in the one-story brick warehouse caused extensive damage before being brought under control several hours later. At the height of the fire, county fire companies were used at the scene and to cover empty city house. Fire investigators believed the fire was started in a stolen automobile that had been abandoned in the building.

With the general-alarm fire on Angelica Street controlled, one of the busiest months in St. Louis Fire Department history came to an end. The six multiple-alarm fires were successfully fought with no deaths or injuries to firefighters or civilians. Though the buildings received heavy fire damage, four remained standing and were able to be repaired.

St. Louis Action

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Photo by David J. Dubowski
March 6, 1996 Aerial and handheld hoselines are played on flames that roared through a two-story commercial structure. The suspicious fire expanded to five alarms, requiring the response of 125 firefighters, 16 engines, four trucks and two squads.


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Photo by David J. Dubowski
Firefighters faced a sub-zero wind-chill to control the fire and protect an eight-story warehouse exposure across an alley.


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Photo by David J. Dubowski
Feb. 11, 1996 A firefighter positions a deck gun at fire that damaged a 1 1/2-story house in East St. Louis, IL. It was the first of two house fires that day.

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Photo by David J. Dubowski
St. Louis City and St. Louis County companies work together to attack a five-alarm church fire.


Frank C. Schaper, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is deputy chief of the St. Louis Fire Department and a managing member of St. Louis Quint Concepts, L.L.C.