Tompkins County 9-1-1 Center received several calls shortly before 2 p.m. from people reporting heavy black smoke coming from the rear of a residence in the 400 block of West Court Street, Ithaca. Dispatchers sent a full first-alarm assignment, three engines, a truck, and the duty chief, comprising 10 of the 12 on duty firefighters.
Heavy smoke and flames rolled from a two-story wood frame dwelling. Flames threatened the adjoining wood frame structures on each side. Vu A Do owns and lives in the property. Fire severely damaged the building. It is not habitable; a car parked in the driveway was also damaged. The property to the east, 411 West Court St was most at risk. Radiant heat melted the vinyl siding.
First water went to cool the threatened exposure, Bravo 1. Next, the hose line was directed onto the flames from outside the structure until adequate firefighting forces arrived on scene to set up a two out team to assure firefighter safety.
Acting Lt. Thomas T. Basher and Firefighter Todd Wilber entered the building with a two-inch hose line, beginning the interior attack. Simultaneously, crews were sent to check the interiors of the adjoining properties for extension, stretch a second attack line, and stretch a line to the exterior southwest corner to protect exposures on the west, Exposure Delta 1.
Ithaca firefighters quickly confined the fire to the building of origin. Except for melted siding at 411 West Court St. there was no exposed building damage. The fire had entered void spaces and the attic area.
The ladder company crew cut two vent holes in the roof. Firefighting crews were in the building pulling ceilings and extinguishing hidden pockets of fire. Fire Chief Brian Wilbur took control of the scene. Assistant Chief Van Benschoten was assigned operations section chief. A Firefighter Rapid Intervention Group was established, supplanting the two out team.
Sounds similar to firecrackers exploding caused Van Benschoten to order all personnel out of the building. A defensive operation was established. Water from the ladder pipe and a portable large flow nozzle called a Blitzfire darkened down the pockets of fire. Firefighters then re-entered the building and extinguished the remaining pockets of fire.
Firefighting forces left the scene shortly after 5 pm. A fire investigation task force comprised of Ithaca fire and police are working to determine the cause of the fire.
Ithaca Police assisted with traffic and crowd control. The Ithaca Fire REHAB unit, Bangs Ambulance, NYSEG, Tompkins County Chapter, American Red Cross, and the Tompkins County SPCA all assisted at the incident.
One dog was found dead in the building. Ithaca firefighters turned the body over to the SPCA, awaiting word on the pet owner's wishes.
Bangs Ambulance transported one civilian to Cayuga Medical Center. There are no reported firefighter injuries.
Information on the cause of the fire shall be released when it is available.