Vapors blamed for rail tank fire and explosion that kills two
Firefighters were dispatched to a rail yard at 1:11 p.m. after flammable vapors ignited inside a rail tank car, causing an explosion and fire that killed two workers and injured a third.
The fire department indicated that the workers, employees of a railcar cleaning company, were cleaning hydrocarbon-based material from the car after its contents had been offloaded. An unspecified ignition source triggered the explosion, causing one worker who was climbing out of the car to fall approximately 15 feet to a concrete surface, resulting in fatal trauma injuries. The second fatally injured worker was still inside the car and unable to escape, sustaining fatal burn injuries.
Newspaper reports indicated that the third worker, who was wearing a harness, was on top of the tank car and blown off by the blast, but did not suffer serious injury.
Due to unsafe levels of hazardous materials, firefighters were unable to extricate the body of the employee inside the tank car until approximately six hours after the explosion, according to newspaper reports. Those reports indicated that firefighters tested air levels at least twice and ventilated the tank car before determining it was safe for entry. The trapped employee was pronounced dead at the scene. The other victim succumbed to his trauma injuries after being transported to the hospital.
Reports indicated that 30 firefighters responded to the explosion.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also reported to the scene and initiated an investigation of the explosion. In announcing the results of the investigation several months later, OSHA cited the employer for more than 30 safety and health violations, issued penalties of nearly $1 million, and placed the company in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA indicated that the company’s violations included failing to evaluate air quality or other hazards before permitting employees to enter a confined space, failing to continuously monitor air for explosive hazards, failing to provide employees with emergency retrieval equipment, and failing to provide employees with properly fitted respiratory protection, in addition to other serious violations.
One month after OSHA issued its citations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an “imminent and substantial endangerment” order to the employer for failing to identify, handle, and dispose of waste that posed a potential danger to public health and the environment. EPA estimated that the company generated approximately 5,700 pounds (2,600 kilograms) of solid crude oil, 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of liquid crude oil, and unknown quantities of ethanol and methanol waste each month, emphasizing that these and other hazardous wastes were highly volatile. The EPA order directed the company to take immediate steps to comply with federal requirements for managing, storing, and disposing of hazardous waste.
E-cigarette explosion ignites fire, causes minor injuries
Firefighters responded to an early morning alarm at an apartment complex after an e-cigarette battery exploded while a resident was vaping in his bedroom.
Newspaper reports indicated that the explosion ignited a fire on a nightstand and clothing in the resident’s bedroom, but the resident was able to extinguish the fire with water before the fire department arrived at the scene just after 1:50 a.m. Firefighters provided medical treatment to the victim at the scene.
According to media coverage, the resident was treated at a local hospital for minor burns on his face and hands and a hand injury that required two stitches to close.
Resident dies when smoking materials ignite bedding
An early morning apartment fire caused by smoking materials claimed the life of a male resident who was unable to escape due to a mobility disability.
The fire department was dispatched to the scene, a multi-unit apartment complex, following notification by an alarm monitoring company at 3 a.m.
Investigators determined that the fire began when smoking materials ignited a mattress or bedding on a bed in the living room. They described the bed as severely burned on the right side, closest to a nightstand where an ashtray was located.
Firefighters reported that a sprinkler system activated and extinguished 90 percent of the fire by the time they arrived, but the victim suffered severe burn injuries. Crews evacuated the victim, who was transported to the hospital and later died from his injuries.
The apartment was located on the third floor of a 12-story building. The building was protected by smoke detectors and a wet-pipe sprinkler system, which firefighters noted had operated as designed. The building had a ground-floor area of 16,000 square feet (1,486 square meters), was constructed with steel beams, and had a concrete roof deck with a rubber covering.
The fire caused an estimated $15,000 in damage to the building and $5,000 in damage to building contents.
Resident dies in house fire ignited by electrical overload
An electrical overload was blamed for a fire that killed an elderly resident. Firefighters responding to a house fire just after 6 a.m. were able to rescue a woman who was trapped inside, but she later succumbed to smoke inhalation injuries at a local hospital.
The fire department was dispatched to the fire at 6:17 a.m. and reported active flames and smoke coming from the structure upon arrival at 6:24 a.m. Crews were met at the front of the house by a male resident who reported that another occupant was still inside and unable to get out.
A rescue team entered the house through a side door while crews from an engine company pulled a pre-connected hose and began fire suppression through the front entrance. Rescue crews located the victim in the hallway next to a bedroom and carried her outside, where resuscitation efforts were made by EMS personnel before transporting her to the hospital.
Crews pulled a second pre-connected hose to extinguish exposure fires in the backyard that had been ignited by flames from the back of the house, where the fire was most intense, then attacked the fire from the side opposite the rescue team’s entry. After extinguishing the fire, crews looked for hot spots and performed ventilation operations.
The surviving occupant told crews that he had made coffee after waking up, then exited the house through the rear and was standing in the backyard when he heard a popping sound and saw flames inside the house. He ran back to the door and called for the victim to get out of the house, but was unable to enter due to the flames. He then ran to the front of the house and began to spray water into the structure with a garden hose. Newspaper accounts reported that two neighbors came to assist him, but no one was able to enter. Neighbors told reporters that the flames reached 20 to 30 feet in the air.
Investigators determined that several relocatable power taps were plugged into each other in a common room, causing an overload on the branch circuit, which overheated the electrical cords and ignited their polyvinyl insulation, spreading to combustible materials that they were in contact with in the room.
The house was not equipped with either smoke alarms or an automatic extinguishing system.
The house was a single-story structure with an area of 1,720 square feet (160 square meters). The structure’s exterior walls were constructed with masonry blocks covered with stucco, and interior walls were constructed with wood studs covered by drywall. The roof was constructed with manufactured wood trusses and a plywood deck, with composite asphalt shingling.
Damage to the house, valued at $120,000, was estimated at $100,000. The fire caused an additional $30,000 in damage to its contents, which were valued at $50,000.
Woman killed when candle lights clothing
Police conducting a welfare check in an apartment complex found the body of a female resident who had suffered fatal burn and smoke inhalation injuries.
Police responded after a neighbor heard a smoke alarm sounding in the victim’s unit and called 911. The fire department reported that the fire was extinguished prior to its arrival and that crews had little involvement in the incident.
Newspapers indicated that the victim, who had a mobility disability, lived alone. Investigators determined that the victim’s clothing ignited while she was lighting a candle.
The apartment was protected by stand-alone smoke alarms but was not equipped with automatic extinguishing equipment.
The apartment experienced only smoke damage and minor damage to a small area of carpeting. No dollar estimates were provided on the damage.
Extension cord blamed for deadly fire in manufactured home
An early evening fire in a manufactured home claimed the life of a female resident despite the arrival of firefighters within two minutes of notification. The fire was determined to have originated in an extension cord.
Firefighters were alerted to the fire after a nearby resident called 911 at approximately 6 p.m. Newspaper coverage reported that firefighters entered the home and were able to extricate the occupant and that paramedics and firefighters immediately began resuscitation efforts.
The victim was reported to have limited mobility due to an illness. Newspaper reports indicated that she was transported to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
Investigators determined that the fire was caused by electrical resistance heating in an extension cord, which overheated and transferred enough heat to ignite combustibles that it was in contact with.
The manufactured home was constructed with a metal floor frame and roof covering, with wood stud walls and wood floor covering. The home occupied a ground-floor area of 840 square feet (78 square meters).
The home was not protected by smoke alarms or automatic extinguishing equipment.
The home and contents, with a combined value of $15,000, were a total loss.
Resident dies, another seriously injured in cooking fire
An early morning apartment fire caused by unattended cooking materials claimed the life of one resident and caused serious injuries to a second.
The fire originated in the second-floor apartment of a two-and-a-half story building that included three additional units: two on the first floor and another in an upstairs attic space.
The fire department was notified by an occupant of a neighboring apartment at 5:41 a.m. Crews from an engine company that was first on the scene described smoke issuing from the second floor and attic and immediately began stretching a hose to the structure. A resident from one of the downstairs apartments told crews that the fire had started on the second floor and that at least one person was in the second-floor unit. He also told crews that access to the second floor was through a door at a rear corner of the building.
Incident command requested more units to the scene while crews moved a hose along the side of the structure to the rear entrance, then advanced the hose up the stairs to the second floor and began attacking the fire, accompanied by a rescue team. Meanwhile, an arriving engine company was instructed to put a ladder to a second-floor porch roof and search for a possible victim in the front bedroom.
After searching the bedroom and finding it empty, crews located one of the tenants on the living room floor and evacuated him down the back stairwell. An emergency medical service team took control of the victim, who was semi-conscious, once he was outside the structure. Shortly afterward, crews located a second occupant and carried him to the second-floor window, where firefighters on the porch roof assisted in bringing him down via the ladder. Crews placed the second victim on a stretcher and immediately began performing CPR while he was moved to a waiting ambulance.
With the residents evacuated, crews inside the structure finished extinguishing the fire on the second floor and were advised that there was still fire in the attic. Crews on the second floor located a stud channel behind the kitchen stove where fire was extending through the ceiling, then pulled a hose over and extinguished flames in the channel. Crews advanced a hoseline up a stairwell and initiated fire attack in the attic, where fire was described as heavy. Firefighters had to change air supply bottles after their low air alarms activated, but crews reentered the attic and were able to completely extinguish the fire.
Investigators determined that the fire was started by cooking materials left on the gas stove, with fire extending from the stove to kitchen cabinets and then entering a wall cavity to extend into the attic apartment.
The resident found in the bedroom succumbed to his injuries in the hospital one day after the fire. The occupant evacuated from the living room was hospitalized with smoke inhalation injuries.
The apartment building was a balloon construction building that covered a ground-floor area of 1,440 square feet (134 square meters). The structure was over 100 years old and built on a stone foundation, with wood walls and frame and an asphalt shingle and steel sheet roofing.
The building was equipped with smoke alarms in all apartments and stairwells, but those on the second and third floors were not functional. The building was not protected by automatic extinguishing equipment.
The fire caused an estimated $40,000 in damage to the apartment, which was valued at $66,000, and $30,000 to its contents, whose pre-fire value was estimated at $40,000.
Electrical fire in home claims female victim
One resident died as a result of a late-night fire that began when a fault in an electrical receptacle ignited wood inside the walls of her home, then spread to the living room. The fire department was at the scene within six minutes of being notified of the fire by cell phone callers at 11:20 p.m.
Newspapers reported that fire, police, and rescue crews responded to the scene and removed the female victim, who had a mobility disability and was unable to evacuate herself. The reports indicated that she died in the hospital one day after the fire. The fire department indicated that she experienced smoke inhalation injuries.
A second occupant of the house, identified in newspaper reports as a personal caretaker, evacuated the house and sought help after battery-operated smoke alarms sounded. The house was not protected by automatic extinguishing equipment.
The two-story home was constructed with wood and occupied a ground-floor area of 1,113 square feet (103 square meters).
The fire department reported that the fire caused heat and smoke damage throughout the house, but estimates on the dollar loss of damage were not available.
Lint buildup in dryer results in deadly fire in manufactured home
A fire in a manufactured home claimed one life after a fire ignited in the home’s dryer and spread throughout the structure. A second occupant was able to escape.
The fire department was dispatched to the fire following calls to 911 at 8:23 a.m. Crews advised dispatch that they could see a large column of smoke as they made their way to the scene. Crews were advised that the structure might still be occupied, based on reports from 911 callers.
On arrival, crews reported a fully involved fire with active flames and smoke coming from the structure. Bystanders advised crews that an elderly male with a mobility disability was still inside at the rear of the structure. Firefighters stretched a preconnected attack line to one side of the structure and put water on the fire while evaluating the potential for a rescue attempt. Incident command determined that the structure was too compromised to permit entry.
Crews maintained a defensive attack from multiple locations on the perimeter and were able to completely extinguish the fire and protect nearby exposures.
When the fire was extinguished, crews were able to visually locate the victim, who was face down in a rear corner of the structure. A fire investigator and the medical examiner’s office were requested to report to the scene. Several hours after crews were released, one engine company was recalled to assist the medical examiner’s office with removal of the body.
The occupant who escaped the fire told responders that he was asleep in his room when he was awakened by the victim calling his name from a second bedroom. As he went into the hallway, he could see smoke and flames coming from behind the dryer. The victim told him to get water and try to put the fire out, but the fire continued to spread and the occupant exited to summon help at a neighbor’s house.
The investigation determined that lint had built up in the dryer hose and was ignited by heat from the appliance. The fire then spread to other combustible materials and the structure of the home.
No information was available on the presence of automatic detection equipment. The investigator noted that a secondary means of egress had been screwed shut, preventing entry or exit from that location.
The manufactured home was constructed with wood studs covered by corrugated aluminum, and the interior walls were covered with wood paneling. The roof was constructed with manufactured wood trusses and a corrugated metal cover. There was no foundation for the structure, which sat on top of piers. The home covered an area of 672 square feet (62 square meters).
The manufactured home, valued at $35,000, was a total loss, and there was an additional $10,000 in damage to its contents, which were valued at $15,000.
One killed, one injured in apartment fire ignited by candle
An elderly man died and his wife was injured in a late-night apartment fire that began when a candle being used during a power outage ignited furniture in the bedroom and then spread throughout the room.
Firefighters were dispatched to the fire after a resident called 911 at 11:30 p.m. Crews arrived at the scene approximately five minutes after receiving the alarm. Crews began fighting the fire as they entered the apartment and worked their way toward the bedroom. They reported that the victim was deceased when they reached the bedroom.
The fire took place in a large apartment complex containing 352 units. The victim’s wife told investigators that she placed a candle on a bedroom nightstand for her husband, who had a mobility disability, then left the room, and that the nightstand was on fire when she returned. After unsuccessfully trying to remove her husband and to extinguish the fire with water, she exited the apartment and began calling for help.
After extinguishing the fire, crews performed ventilation, salvage, and overhaul operations.
EMS crews transported the victim’s wife, who suffered burn injuries, to the emergency room for treatment.
Investigators noted the fire caused heat damage to the apartment’s front door and to the living room and that damage worsened as they progressed to the bedroom. The fire caused extensive damage in the bedroom, including burn damage to ceiling joists above the sleeping area.
The apartment was equipped with a smoke alarm outside the bedroom, but investigators determined that it was not functioning. The apartment did not have an automatic extinguishing system.
The apartment complex was described in newspaper reports as a townhouse development. The fire did not spread beyond the apartment of fire origin, which was a two-story building. Information was not available on the size of the apartment.
The fire caused $10,400 in damage to the property and an additional $5,000 to its contents.
Extension cord causes fire that kills resident
One resident escaped but another was killed in an evening house fire that broke out when an extension cord overheated and ignited combustible materials on the floor of the victim’s bedroom.
Firefighters were notified of the fire at 8 p.m. by a 911 call from the surviving occupant.
The surviving occupant told firefighters that he fell asleep in the living room and was wakened by smoke in the house. He escaped through a side door before calling 911. Firefighters found the deceased occupant in his bedroom and identified the cause of death as asphyxiation. The victim had a mobility disability that limited his ability to escape.
Investigators found burn patterns in the bedroom that were indicative of a smoldering fire in the area of a space heater and extension cord that was covered by a pile of clothing. They determined that the fire started when resistance heating caused the extension cord to overheat, igniting the clothing.
The house was a two-story structure with wood walls, wood joist floor framing, and wood roof deck covered with asphalt shingles. It had a ground-floor area of 750 square feet (70 square meters).
The house had no smoke alarms or automatic extinguishing equipment.
The fire caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the house, which was valued at $62,000, and an additional $30,000 to its contents, valued at $50,000.
Resident dies when brush fire spreads to home
A female resident who was burning brush on her property died when the fire spread to her house and she was unable to escape the structure.
The fire department was notified of the fire at 11:59 a.m. after the victim called 911 to report that she had been burning brush and that her back porch was on fire. As units responded, they received a 911 update reporting that the caller’s husband was on the scene and unable to find his wife.
Incident command reported smoke showing from the eaves upon arrival. After performing a walk-around, incident command informed 911 and responding units that fire was venting through an open front door, as well as from windows on one side of the house and from a skylight on the roof, while the rear of the house was almost fully involved.
Crews responding to the scene were instructed to undertake a defensive attack. Two engine companies began laying supply line and required 2,600 feet of supply line before getting a positive water supply. Crews then mounted an exterior attack to knock down visible fire. After most of the visible fire was knocked down, crews entered the home and found the victim inside the front door.
A fire department report noted that smoke detectors could be heard in the background in tapes of the victim’s call to 911. A newspaper reported that the victim’s husband tried to enter the house to rescue her, but was driven back by heavy flames.
The residence was a two-story log home with an area of 1,250 square feet (116 square meters). Both floors of the house were described as suffering extreme damage.
The house was protected by smoke alarms, which firefighters determined to be operational.
The fire caused $80,000 in damage to the property, valued at $90,000, and $20,000 in damage to its contents, which were valued at $60,000.
Woodstove ignites fatal fire
A house fire that began when flames from a woodstove ignited surrounding combustibles claimed the life of an elderly male resident.
The fire department was notified of the fire at 8:44 p.m. when a passerby called 911, but newspapers reported that the house was in flames by the time crews arrived just five minutes later.
News reports indicated that firefighters were able to quickly control the fire, but had to manage working in temperatures of –30 degrees F.
According to news reports, firefighters found the victim inside the house. He was transported to a medical center and was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The single-story house was constructed of wood, with a ground-floor area of 288 square feet (27 square meters). It was not equipped with smoke alarms or sprinkler protection.
The fire caused $50,000 in damage to the structure, valued at $109,000, and destroyed the contents, valued at $15,000.
Sparks from demolition work ignite fire at sewage treatment facility
Sparks from a reciprocating saw ignited a fire in a section of a sewage treatment plant undergoing demolition, ultimately causing significant damage as the fire spread up an interior wall and through the ceiling and roof before being extinguished by fire crews called to the scene.
The fire department was notified of the fire at 9:43 a.m. and arrived six minutes later to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the facility. Ladder companies set up three master streams to knock down flames coming from the roof. Crews also set up four handlines for fire attack inside the structure.
Crews were able to knock down the fire in approximately 45 minutes. Media reports indicated that 48 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire. Due to the presence of hazardous materials in the facility, two hazmat crews were called to the scene to assist with monitoring air quality and accessing on-site chemicals. In addition, decontamination operations were set up to clean firefighting gear after extinguishment.
The fire originated in an area of the facility that had been inactive for two years and was undergoing demolition. Workers were cutting “scrubbers”—pollution-control devices measuring 12 to 15 feet wide and 30 feet high—into sections for removal when sparks from one worker’s reciprocating saw ignited fumes in the scrubber, causing an explosion and subsequent fire.
Newspaper reports indicated that the worker was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
The pre-incident value of the property was estimated at $5 million. Damage to the structure was estimated at $1 million, with an additional $500,000 in damage to its contents.
Sprinklers control restaurant fire caused by hot work
Sprinklers were credited with controlling a fire that broke out in a fast-food restaurant where hot work was taking place during overnight hours.
The fire department was alerted to the fire by a 911 call from the establishment’s owner at 3:22 a.m., followed shortly thereafter by notification through the sprinkler system’s waterflow alarm.
Newspaper reports indicated that firefighters could see smoke as they responded to the scene. Two sprinkler heads opened and the sprinkler system was controlling the fire as crews arrived.
The fire started in a rear storage area adjacent to the kitchen, where repairs were being made to a faucet. The owner was using a self-contained torch to heat a nut and thread on the faucet when he heard a delivery truck arrive. The owner stopped his work and placed the torch on a supply room shelf, then exited through a back door to meet the truck driver.
As the owner and driver were talking outside, there was a sudden explosion inside the building that blew the door open and sent material flying through the doorway. The owner told investigators that he reentered the building and discharged a fire extinguisher on flames in the supply room, then returned outside and called 911.
Investigators determined that the hot torch was placed on the supply room shelf next to combustible materials and an auxiliary butane fuel canister, and that heat from the torch ignited cardboard boxes which then caused the canister to explode. They were unable to determine whether the torch was still on or whether heat from the tip provided the initial ignition.
The restaurant was a single-story structure located in a strip mall and had a ground-floor area of 600 square feet (56 square meters). It was constructed with brick and glass walls, concrete floor framing, and a metal roof deck on steel roof framing.
The fire caused an estimated $10,000 in damage to the building’s structure and an additional $5,000 to its contents.
E-cigarette starts fire in locker room
A fire in a high school locker room was determined to have been caused by an e-cigarette stored inside a book bag.
Firefighters were alerted to the fire by a 911 dispatch at 3:20 p.m. after school fire alarms activated. News reports indicated that the fire was quickly extinguished by school staff. The accounts also reported that the fire department ventilated a portion of the building.
Fire investigators conducted tests with an e-cigarette device of the same make and found that a switch at the end of the device could be depressed and stay in place, causing it to continue to heat. They concluded that the switch activated when the e-cigarette was pressed against the book bag, igniting clothing and other contents of the bag.
The school was protected by a wet pipe sprinkler system, but the fire was too small to cause activation. News reports indicated that students were evacuated from the school following the alarm.
The fire caused an estimated $2,500 in damage to the locker room.
Electrical arc in robotic machinery starts fire in manufacturing facility
Firefighters were dispatched to a manufacturing facility during early afternoon hours after a fire that began in a piece of machinery spread to the structure’s ceiling. Investigators determined the fire was the result of an electrical arc.
The first units to reach the scene reported heavy smoke emitting from the roof and an open overhead door. A facility manager told crews that all employees had been evacuated, but that an emergency response team was fighting the fire inside the building. Two firefighters were instructed to enter the facility and perform a primary search for employees.
Crews inside the building reported that the fire was in the ceiling area and personnel on the roof reported heavy smoke from an air handler on the roof. Incident command issued a call for a second alarm and requested that a township rapid intervention team be dispatched to the site.
A local newspaper reported that firefighters were able to confine the fire to air ducts. The story quoted the fire chief as stating that “we had to chase [the fire] down.”
Investigators determined that a joint on a piece of robotic machinery had broken down and caused wiring to degrade. The fire started when an electrical arc in the wiring ignited flammable liquid. Newspaper reports indicated that the fire then spread to the ventilation system.
The fire department reported that the fire was brought under control at 3:44 p.m. and that personnel from the second alarm department began to be released at 4:16 p.m. Following overhaul, all units were cleared just after 5 p.m. No injuries were reported.
The facility was protected by a water flow automatic detection system, located in the building’s risers, and a wet-pipe sprinkler system. The fire department indicated that three sprinkler heads opened in response to the fire.
The building was a single-story structure standing 40 feet high, with a ground-floor area of 100,000 square feet (9,290 square meters). The building was constructed with block walls, a concrete floor, and a metal roof deck on a steel frame. The roof had a cover of asphalt tar with rock.
No estimates were available on dollar loss from the fire.
Out-of-control trash fire claims life of property owner
Firefighters found the body of a property owner while extinguishing a fire that began while the victim was burning trash on his property and raged out of control, according to newspaper reports.
The local fire department was alerted to the fire when a family member called 911 at approximately 7:30 p.m. The news reports indicated that the fire burned approximately 25 acres of farm land and 30 hay bales, and that nearly 30 firefighters were called to the scene. Firefighters were reported to have brought the fire under control within 20 minutes, but continued to extinguish the hay bales for an additional two hours.
The cause of death of the property owner was still being determined at the time fire investigators submitted their report of the fire. However, respondents indicated in their report that the victim was believed to have been running away from the fire when he experienced a heart attack. The body of the victim, which was extensively burned, was found in a burned area.
No estimates were available on dollar losses as a result of the fire.
Sprinklers control vehicle fire caused by electrical arc
The fire department responded to an early afternoon 911 call from a municipal vehicle maintenance shop when a fire broke out in one of the vehicles in for repairs.
The fire started when the engine control module of a vehicle parked in the center of the repair shop failed, producing an electrical arc that ignited combustible materials in the vehicle’s interior. An employee detected the fire at 12:55 p.m. and fire crews were at the scene within five minutes.
A local newspaper reported that the facility’s automatic sprinkler system controlled the fire and prevented major damage to the structure or other vehicles. The reports also identified the burned vehicle as a police cruiser, which it described as ruined.
Investigators indicated that the sprinkler system was a dry pipe system and that the fire resulted in three sprinkler heads opening.
The repair shop was a single-story building with a ground-floor area of 101,300 square feet (9,411 square meters). It was constructed with brick walls and metal roof deck, with a built-up roof covering.
Damage from the fire was estimated at $96,000.