Charlottesville Virginia 3-Alarm Fire

Charlottesville firefighters spent much of Wednesday morning, Febuary 10 battling a University of Virginia student house fire.

"The 9-1-1 call came in at 0542 reporting a house fire at 416 Monroe lane," said Deputy Chief Charles Werner of Charlottesville Fire Department." The residence was private property, housing U of VA students. As firefighters were enroute to the scene, dispatchers were communicating with the callers and confirmed that everyone was out or getting out. Battalion Chief Dave Hartman issued a 2nd Alarm."

Units arriving on the scene discovered a working fire with heavy fire conditions. First-in companies confirmed all residents were out, many of whom had jumped from upper floor windows to escape.

Exits had been blocked when the fire, which appeared to have begun on the first floor, worked its way upstairs from the common open stairway located in the center of the first floor. Due to the house's balloon frame structure, the fire had penetrated wall and floor spaces and was consuming and spreading in hidden structural areas while firefighters were working in the building.

Intensity of the situation increased with exposure on Side 2(B) of a 4-story UVA Dormitory 25 feet away, and exposure on Side 3(C), a frame dwelling 10 feet away, and a major exposure on Side 4 (D), a multi-story apartment dwelling about 20 feet away. A 3rd Alarm was then issued.

Responding to and battling the blaze were nine engine companies which included apparatus from City Fire, Seminole Trail Vol, Stoney Point Vol, and East Rivanna Vol. Also on the scene, one ladder company, seven chief officers, two FD special response vehicles, several CFD volunteer firefighters. CARS responded with one heavy rescue, two ambulances, and one duty officer.

Nearly 60 personnel were working the scene. Crozet, Earlysville, North Garden provided station transfer coverage for city stations. Lake Monticello provided station transfer coverage for East Rivanna. Red Cross, Dominion Virginia Power, City Gas, City Water and UVA Enviromental Health and Safety responded.

"The first action plan," said Deputy Chief Charles Werner, "was an interior hand line attack with much success in the areas attacked. But fire kept spreading around the interior crews and interior companies began to report structural failure of some flooring, wall and ceiling sections. Thermal image cameras were invaluable to see the areas of structural integrity and movement throughout the structure and aided in fast primary searches to confirm escape of all occupants.

The second plan of action called for all companies evacuated and the operation changed to defensive mode. An exterior master stream attack was initiated. Deck guns from Engine 6, Engine 5 and ladder pipe from Ladder 1 were put in service with great success. The fire could not be attacked directly and the crews were very successful at using straight tip, hard punching and deep penetrating streams which overcame the hidden fire. Each of the first three engines on the scene established their own large diameter water supply from three different hydrants. The fire was then brought under control. Apparatus continued to remain on the scene for approximately 3.5 hours. PAR checks were conducted as close to 20 minute intervals as possible."

The house listed 12 residents, seven of whom were home at the time of the fire. Before firefighters arrived on the scene, two students jumped from a back second story window and were caught by fellow residents. One student was burned and taken by rescue to UVA Hospital.

Four civilans were also injured. One incurred burns and smoke inhalation and was taken to UVA hospital and also admitted. Conditions of the other civilians are not known at this time.

Charlottesville Fire Marshal Ben Powell along with City Police is conducting a joint investigation.

Firefighters reported that upon arrival at the scene, smoke detectors were working.