Penn. House Fire with Backdraft

On June 14, 2006 at 04:57 hours the Beaver Falls Fire Department was dispatched to a reported dwelling fire at 2430 Eighth Avenue. Engine 11 Tower 11 and Rescue 11 responded. Upon arrival, Chief 11-10 reported smoke showing from the second floor of a two story wood frame dwelling. The crew of Engine 11 advanced a 1 ¾” handline to side A and entered the structure on the first floor. This crew found a light to moderate smoke condition near the ceiling of the first floor. At this point there was no visible fire on division 1. The crew of four firefighter split with two advancing the handline to division 2 and the remaining two firefighters conducting a primary search of division 1. The two firefighters on division 2 were conducting a primary search as well as searching for the seat of the fire.

Smoke conditions on the exterior are remaining the same at this time with no smoke or any indication of fire in the basement and only light smoke showing from division 1 coming from the open entrance door. Smoke from division 2 is dark and exiting the windows on side A and B without any force.

At 05:05, four minutes after the initial crew entered the structure, the basement suddenly flashed with fire. Command advised the interior crew that they had a basement fire. This was the first sign of any fire in the basement. The first photo in the series was taken as the crew of Engine 11 was preparing to enter and as seen in this photo there is no smoke or fire apparent in the basement division. Less than one minute after the basement flashed a backdraft occurred. The force of the explosion blew windows out of the first floor and smoke blew from the front door approximately 25 feet. Window glass was measured at 18 feet from the structure. The middle room (dining room) on division 1 is now completely flashed over with heavy fire showing from several windows. A dwelling located 6’-5” from the fire building on side D is now well involved. Command ordered an evacuation of the building.

One firefighter had entered the dining room and was approximately 3 feet into this room at the time of the backdraft. He was thrown into the wall from the blast. The firefighter with him was in the doorway of the dining room, he ducked to the floor as fire rolled over him. This firefighter made his way to the front entrance door and advised Command verbally that there were firefighters down. The firefighter in the dining room began to start crawling to the exit when he heard fellow firefighters screaming for assistance. He turned back toward the dining room thinking there were still firefighters in this room burning to death. A crew stretching a backup line was on the front porch at the time of the backdraft. This crew entered the building and located the firefighter on division 1 and pulled him to safety. The two firefighters on division 2 found the stairs and quickly descended as fire was beginning to extent up the stairs, they were assisted out of the structure by the backup crew.

With all firefighters now accounted for, a defensive attack was initiated on the fire building and exposure D. After all heavy fire was knocked down, operations were switched back to an offensive attack with crews entering both involved buildings. Mutual aid assistance was requested from New Brighton, West Mayfield, Chippewa Township, and Patterson Township.

The cause of the fire was ruled electrical, originating at the breaker box located at the top of the basement stairway, on the division 1 level. The interior door to the basement is located in the dining room and was closed and also propped shut with a chair and weights. All walls in the dining room had wood paneling including the basement stairway. The fire had apparently burned for an extended period of time. The products of combustion were for the most part contained in the basement stairway. The fire extension in the basement was contributed to the radiant heat from the fire at the division 1 level of the stairway. The apparent smoldering fire in the area of origin received oxygen from an unknown source causing the backdraft.