Fire Hits Historic Georgia Town

At approximately 16:55 hours Saturday June 14, Perry Fire Department Engine 1, Truck 1, Warner Robins Fire Department Engine 3, and EMS Medic Unit 3 responded with numerous Perry Police and Houston County Sheriffs units to the report of smoke coming from the roof of the structure at Ball & Carroll Streets in Perry.

As the Perry units were leaving Station 1, heavy dark smoke was visible due south on Ball Street. Upon arrival, Engine 1 advised that smoke was coming from the roof of the single story northern portion of the commercial structure addressed as 901 Carroll Street aka the offices for C. Snyder Chapman Certified Public Accountants.

Writer arrived on scene simultaneously with Engine and Truck 1 establishing Command in the intersection of Carroll and Ball Streets on the ALPHA / BRAVO Corner of the structure. Command observed smoke coming from several different locations along the edges and ridge of the roof. Additionally smoke was emanating from the roof decking at the bases of both the plumbing vent stack and the mast of the electrical service weather head on the BRAVO (West) side of the of the structure.

As preplanned Truck 1 used Washington Street to access Carroll Street securing a water supply from the fire hydrant at the corner by connecting two hoses which were three inches in diameter to a hydrant and proceeding west on Carroll Street to the ALPHA (front) side of the City Barber Shop at 911 Carroll Street. At that location, Truck 1 set up for aerial operations and laddered the building. The Officer In Charge (OIC) Sgt. K. Crumpton with a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC), Ff. T. Schonau, and Ff. J. Boise WRFD ascended to the roof identified as ROOF SECTOR. That crew was assigned to scan the roof of the common attic area of the businesses to the DELTA (east) side of the fire building and identify the presence and extent of any fire progression within the attic. The report from ROOF SECTOR was that the detectable heat signature was contained to the fire building and that they would have the Truck 1 Driver/Operator Sgt. M. Paull establish an elevated water stream from Truck 1 onto the CHARLIE / DELTA (Southeast) corner of the fire building. Truck 1 utilized the elevated water stream to apply water to the southern portion of the east wall and roof area of the fire structure.

Mean while Engine 1 had traveled south on Ball Street from Commerce Street taking up a position along the Southern portion of the BRAVO (West) side of the fire building. Engine 1 established a water supply from the fire hydrant on the corner of Ball and Carroll Streets by connecting a five inches in diameter hose to that hydrant. The Engine 1 Driver/Operator Ff. M. Land Engine 1 employed the truck mounted deluge gun to apply water to the northern portion of the roof and the wall on the BRAVO side of the fire structure. The OIC Lt. R. Rowell and Ff. B. Warmack pulled a one-and-three-quarter inch attack line to the main entrance on the ALPHA (South) side of the fire identified as INTERIOR. INTERIOR made entry into the structure assigned to locate a point of access to the fire and begin extinguishment or at least contain the fire. INTERIOR reported they were not having any success in locating any point of access to the fire within the offices of the structure confirming the fire was in the attic area. Additionally INTERIOR could not create a breach to access the attic. Simultaneously the smoke emanating from the roof was observed by Command to be changing indicating the fire building was becoming untenable. At that time Command ordered INTERIOR to evacuate the fire building immediately. As soon as the order to evacuate was issued ROOF SECTOR reported he was about to advise of the condition change as observed for the DELTA side at roof height. Simultaneously INTERIOR crewmembers exited the fire building followed a large volume of ink black smoke as they passed the oak tree south of the ALPHA side entrance. As the INTERIOR crew made it to the center of Carroll Street the smoke now extending from within the fire building outside and upward into the oak tree ignited from within the fire building catching the tree on fire. Had there been any delay in the INTERIOR crew evacuating the fire building they would have at the very least suffered burn injuries from the flashover within the fire building. Had the INTERIOR crew been incapacitated or trapped at that time there were no additional personnel on scene that could have made up a Rapid Intervention Team and affected their rescue. We would have had no choice but to await the arrival of Warner Robins Engine 3, which was, reported to be approximately 4 additional minutes with their crew of four to conduct a rescue operation if conditions had not worsened making it impossible by that time. ROOF SECTOR inquired of Command if INTERIOR had exited the fire building and were told yes they were out safely prior to the flashover. ROOF SECTOR reported they had to shelter in place by lying on the roof deck at the time of the flashover and all members were accounted for and safe.

Command inquired of INTERIOR if they needed EMS the OIC advised they were both ok.

Subsequently Engine 3 was given Command the assignment of marrying up with the ROOF SECTOR to assist with the fire extinguishment or other necessary tasks.

Additionally Warner Robins Fire Ladder 2, Houston County Fire Department Brush 5, Engine 71, Rescue 7, and Air 1 responded to the scene to assist with manpower and the filling of breathing air cylinders.

Houston County Engine 51 provided stand in coverage for the other calls occurring in the city.

Ladder 2 was advised to use Commerce Street to access Ball Street and back south onto Ball Street so as to take up a position off the BRAVO / CHARLIE (Northwest) corner of the fire building. Once on scene the two person crew of Ladder 2 set up for aerial operations employing an elevated water stream to apply water to the CHARLIE wall of the fire building in an attempt to protect the CHARLIE exposure (the offices of Pete Stokes Builders) and assist with the extinguishment of the fire.

ROOF SECTOR advised that the Engine 3 OIC made the suggestion that his crew return to the ground and attempt a second interior attack on the fire.

Command approved the request and the crews of Engine 3 and Engine 1 mustered at the ALPHA entrance to the fire building now identified as INTERIOR. INTERIOR advanced into the fire building and attempted to locate a vantage point to extinguish the fire from. INTERIOR advised they would not acquire a vantage point that would allow the direct application of water to extinguish the fire. At this time ROOF SECTOR reported the roof appeared to be in the early stages of collapse. It was decided that INTERIOR would exit the fire building and the attack strategy changed from interior offensive to exterior defensive. Numerous two-and-a-half inch and one-and-three-quarter inch diameter attack lines were used from the exterior to apply water through the door and second story facade windows on the ALPHA side as well as the two doors on the BRAVO side.

It took the initial 10 Firefighters, six off-duty Firefighters and approximately 12 additional firefighters approximately three hours and 20 minutes to bring the fire under control. The office building of C. Snyder Chapman Certified Public Accountants and its contents were a total loss as a result of severe fire damage throughout the structure.

The business located immediately east of the fire structure Carlton Interiors 903 Carroll Street sustained water damage and moderate to minor smoke damage. Overton Jewelers at 905 Carroll located immediately east of Carlton Interiors suffered moderate to minor smoke damage.

The business located immediately north Pete Stokes Builder 1024 Ball Street sustained very minor smoke damage.

The origin of the fire was undetermined, but most probably was within the attic above the single story northern portion of the structure.

The specific cause of the fire was not determined, but the fire behavior and damage were indicative of a lightning strike to either the electrical service transformers immediately adjacent to the BRAVO side of the fire building causing a catastrophic failure of the electrical supply conductors that passed through the attic, or a lightning strike directly to the roof of the fire building.

See Related Training Articles