Gasoline in kerosene heater leads to deadly fire
MARYLAND — A 12-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy died in an early-morning fire in a single-family home caused by a portable kerosene heater that had been refueled with gasoline in a first floor bedroom. The resulting fire quickly spread throughout the house, trapping the children on the second floor. Seven other occupants escaped.
The two-story, wood-frame farmhouse had an asphalt roof and balloon construction. It had neither smoke alarms nor sprinklers.
The adult occupants in the bedroom of origin tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames, then called 911 on a cell phone and went around the house to awaken everyone else. Old paneling contributed to the fire spread, as did an open vent between the first and second floors.
Fire fighters arrived to find the house well-involved in flames, and five fire companies worked to control the blaze. Fire fighters found the girl in her bed on the second floor and the boy in the second-floor hallway. Both died of smoke inhalation.
The house, valued at $60,000, and its contents, valued at $20,000, were destroyed.
Clothing ignited during cooking
MARYLAND – A 56-year-old male suffered serious upper body burns when his clothing ignited while he was using a gas-fired stove in his apartment kitchen. The fire occurred on the 10th floor of a high-rise apartment building and did not spread to any other contents or the building itself. Firefighters credit a neighbor who heard the commotion and the victim’s screams. According to firefighters, the neighbor’s “quick and decisive actions … were lifesaving and allowed the victim the best possible chance for survival.” Despite these efforts, the victim died 23 days later of complications from his injuries.
The 15-story apartment building was constructed of steel and concrete and was protected by a fire detection system in common spaces and within the apartment units themselves. A dry-pipe sprinkler system provided partial protection in the basement and garage areas only. A standpipe system was in the stairwells. At the time of the incident, the victim was home alone.
Firefighters received an automatic alarm at 5:56 p.m. from a central station alarm company. A follow-up 911 call was also received reporting a fire and a burn victim on the 10th floor. Arriving on scene, firefighters were met by the fire victim and a neighbor who had walked down to the first floor. The victim was treated and transported to the hospital. Fire companies on the 10th floor found the fire was limited to the victim’s clothing and with no spread to other contents.
Investigators determined that contact of the victim’s clothing with the open flame of the gas stove ignited his shirt. The victim unable to extinguish the fire himself, exited the apartment in search of a neighbor who helped him extinguish the fire. Smoke from the burning clothes activated the smoke detector and alerted the fire department. Damage was minimal.
Careless smoking ignites fire killing one
LOUISIANA – The lone occupant of a manufactured home died of smoke inhalation, as careless smoking ignited carpet and clothing in the bedroom where he slept. The neighbors who discovered smoke coming from the manufactured home, broke a window and a door to gain access. They were able to pull the victim out. Fire fighters arrived five minutes after the 911 call and moved the victim away from the fully involved manufactured home and began CPR, without success.
The manufactured home had a steel frame with a wooden floor and metal framing for the walls and roof with a metal exterior skin. The trailer included a bathroom, living area, and bedroom. It measured 26 feet (7.9 meters) in length by 8 feet (2.4 meters) in width. A smoke detector was in the living room, and witnesses heard it operating. There were no sprinklers.
Shortly after 9 a.m., a neighbor noticed smoke coming from the manufactured home and began to pound on the door and walls to alert the occupant.
The man could hear a television operating and was now joined by a second neighbor, who broke the bedroom window and a door window. The victim could be seen in the doorway leading from the bedroom to the living room and the two neighbors pulled the victim from the manufactured home.
Fire fighters reported that the manufactured home was fully engulfed when they arrived. They advanced a 1-3/4-inch hose line to quickly control and extinguish the flames. Investigators found an ashtray on the bed and the floor next to the bed was covered with remains of cigarettes. Based on the evidence at the scene either careless smoking or falling asleep while smoking was the cause of the fire. The trailer was a total loss and had an estimated value of $22,000.
Fraternity house has fatal fire
MISSOURI – One person died when trapped on the upper floor of a fraternity house. The single-family home lacked smoke alarms and sprinklers. Flames quickly spread from the first to the second floor and forced fire fighters to enter the upper story using ground ladders. Once the heavy fire was knocked down, the victim was found. The 25-year-old victim died of smoke inhalation and exposure to heat.
The home was 45 feet (13 meters) long and 70 feet (21 meters) wide. The one-and-one-half-story dwelling was constructed of wood framing with an asphalt roof. An occupant of the home discovered the fire and called 911 at 3:42 a.m., and fire fighters arrived six minutes later to find the entire building engulfed in flames. Investigators found that a couch on the first floor living room had ignited by an undetermined ignition source and spread via a stairwell to the upper floor. The home and contents, whose value was not reported, were a total loss.
Fire traps eight and kills four OHIO — Four people died in a house fire after a neighbor saw fire coming from the single-family home and called 911 at 2:50 a.m.
Reports of people trapped in the house were relayed to responding fire fighters. When they arrived within minutes of the call, fire fighters faced heavy fire involvement of the first and second floor. Four people were trapped the second floor. Four others, who had escaped the home, required emergency medical care as the fire continued to burn with intensity.
Command used two engines for fire attack while a squad began search and rescue. Two additional engines were used as backup and for a rapid intervention crew. A ladder company was used for ventilation and several medic units were called in for the victims, which included one who fell from a second story window trying to escape.
Upon entering the second floor and after the heavy fire was controlled, a 51-year-old female and a 4-year-old girl were found in a rear bedroom. Each suffered fatal burn injuries and were left in place. Crews then found a 34-yearold female in a front-facing bedroom and she was moved outside. A secondary search found a 4-year-old boy between a bed and wall.
The fire was started intentionally near a side door and landing when gasoline was poured and ignited. The fire quickly engulfed the interior portions of the home and made escape very difficult.
In addition to four fatalities, four others suffered various fire injuries and two fire fighter had minor injuries during fire attack and body recovery. The home having a combined value of $30,000 was a total loss.
Sprinklers prevent excessive arson fire damage
CONNECTICUT — An intentionally set fire in a third floor boys’ bathroom caused little damage because a single sprinkler activated and extinguished the fire. An unknown person ignited toilet paper and a dispenser that burned until sufficient heat fused the sprinkler. The fully occupied building was evacuated without injury and the loss was estimated at $30,000.
The three-story, steel-frame high school had concrete block walls and a steel roof covered by metal and built-up roof covering. The school had several fire protection and suppression devices including a wet-pipe sprinkler system. A central station alarm company monitored all the systems.
At 12:20 p.m., the fire alarm system sounded and alerted 2,000 students and staff. The fire consumed the dispenser and large toilet paper roll before water from the sprinkler system extinguished the flames. It was not reported who or if anyone was charged with the crime, but the multi-million dollar school and contents was spared significant loss.
Faulty light ballast ignited fire
MARYLAND — A small light ballast within the display case of a jewelry store sparked a fire that was quickly detected by the fire detection system and a passing motorist. A 16-square-foot (1.5-square-meter) area was consumed by the fire, but its location in the window display case did not create enough heat for sprinklers to operate.
The single-story row of stories included a jewelry store in the middle. Closed for the night, the store constructed of steel framing with metal-studded walls and a metal-deck roof measured approximately 100 feet (30 meters) in length and 60 feet (18 meters) in width.
A smoke detection system and drypipe sprinkler system, each monitored by a central station alarm company, provided full protection.
Fire fighters were called at 6:37 a.m. and found the display case to the right of the door filled with smoke and evidence of a fire damaging the contents. Fire did not spread to the interior of the store.
The electrical ballast powering lights in the display case showed signs of damage and the burn pattern led directly to the device itself. Failure of this light ballast caused the fire to ignite and spread to some contents. Damage to the building was estimated at $25,000 with contents of $5,000 reported to be the only losses.
Fire engulfs retail building
CALIFORNIA — Fire burning within a concealed attic and roof space consumed structural wood components, quickly engulfed an enclosed mall, and affected several businesses. A 10-minute delay occurred as the fire burned undetected while occupants searched for the source before calling the fire department.
The fire occurred in a single-story, enclosed strip mall constructed of wood framing with a flat wooden roof covered by a rubber. A drycleaners was the point of origin. The structure measured 75 feet (22 meters) in length and 30 feet (9 meters) in width. Three other occupancies were in the building. The building lacked fire detection and suppression equipment.
Employees of the drycleaners arrived for work at 6 a.m. and ignited a boiler to begin the day’s operations. Nearly an hour later, employees saw smoke outside the building and investigated before calling the fire department at 7 a.m. The fire department arrived to find fire in the common attic space and affecting four occupancies. An engine and ladder crew attempted a trench cut the roof for ventilation and fire attack, but partial roof collapse occurred and fire fighters fought the fire defensively as it consumed the building.
Investigators were able to determine that the boiler flue stack ran through the attic/roof space and vented out the roof. The flue pipe had rusted through in spots causing holes and allowing heat and products of combustion in the concealed space. Over time, structural wooden members dried and the heat ignited them and quickly spread due to lack of fire stops. The building, valued at $2,500,000 with $250,000 of contents, was a total loss. There were no injuries.
Sprinklers control fire in sporting goods store
CONNECTICUT — A fire in a sporting goods store that was closed for the night was quickly contained when two sprinklers operated.
The unintentional fire started when canoes wrapped in plastic were placed near a ceiling-mounted heating unit. Radiant heat ignited the plastic, the canoes dropped down, and the fire ignited other combustibles below.
The single-story building had high concrete block walls supporting steel roof bar joists and a corrugated steel roof covered by a rubber membrane. The store had 42,000 square feet (3,901 square meters) of space and a wet-pipe sprinkler system with a monitored water flow alarm protected the building. There were no smoke alarms.
The fire department received the alarm at 1:05 a.m. and it responded and found some small fires in the rear storage area. Rack storage in the space included merchandise for sale with the canoes stored on the top.
The building valued at $5 million suffered a $5,000 loss, however the contents of the store valued at $4.5 million dollars had losses of $3.5 million. There were no injuries.
Spinkler controls kitchen fire
COLORADO — A natural gas line that terminated in a commercial kitchen was not properly capped and a cleaner mopping the floor accidentally hit the valve, turning it on slightly, causing leaking natural gas to ignite.
A single sprinkler controlled the fire. During investigation several fire and building code violations were noted, which led to the fire and subsequent loss.
The fire occurred in a 100 foot (30 meter) by 100 foot (30 meter) woodframed building with a flat roof covered by tar and gravel. The building housed a grocery store that included a commercial kitchen located in the rear of the store. The building lacked a fire detection system, but did have a wet-pipe sprinkler system that operated and held the fire in check. At the time of the fire the building was closed for the evening, but was occupied by a cleaning crew.
The cleaner heard a sound and looked behind himself to find fire burning up from behind a stove that he had just cleaned. He called a co-worker, who then called 911 at 5:03 a.m.
The fire department arrived within four minutes and found occupants evacuating and the sprinkler system operating. Other crews provided ventilation and gained access to the sprinkler valve to shut down the system.
The water flow did not trip an alarm as required during the last inspection and had not been repaired. The wet chemical system in an adjacent cooking area was past the required six month inspection date, as were fire extinguishers within the store.
The fire caused approximately $23,200 in loss and the building owner was cited for several violations and would not be able to operate the kitchen until they were corrected.
Sprinklers hold fire in check
CALIFORNIA — A fire of undetermined origin started in the retail aisle of a home store in an area containing wicker baskets and imitation leather desk items. The fire occurred as the store was open and operating and was held in check by sprinklers although interior visibility was near zero due to smoke production.
The two-story building had a fire detection system and a wet-pipe sprinkler system and each operated to alert the occupants and the fire department. Building construction or the size of the building was not reported. The first due engine arrived on scene within six minutes and found heavy smoke coming from the front doors. Joining another engine company they advanced into the store, but found it difficult to move due to the lack of visibility and excessive fuel load from large amounts of boxed storage.
Crews worked to the rear of the store were several sprinklers were operating and the fire started. Shutting down the sprinklers the crews could overhaul the fire and attempt to ventilate the building. During investigation it was found that portions of the roof were still on fire, as a ladder company located on the roof used a thermal imaging camera to locate hot spots, open the roof and provide for final extinguishment.
The fire is considered undetermined as no ignition source was located. The building is valued at $5 million dollars with contents of $3 million dollars. Damages to the building were $250,000 with contents losses of $150,000. There were no injuries.
‘Warming’ fire suspected as cause
CALIFORNIA — More than 160 fire fighter worked to control a stubborn fire in a retread tire manufacturing plant. The fire was believed to have started outside from a “warming” or cooking fire.
The single-story building was constructed of steel framing with metal walls and a wooden roof. It measured 200 feet (60 meters) by 300 feet (91 meters). Workers reconditioned tires with new treads for future sale. The building did not have any fire detection system and is believe to have had fire sprinklers, but was overcome by fire spreading into the building from the outside.
A police helicopter patrolling above noted the fire outside of the building. They alerted the fire department at 10:09 p.m. and it responded with 22 companies. The initial attack focused on the interior of the building, but a huge and well involved fuel load forced a defensive position. Flying brands also ignited surrounding structures, which had to be extinguished simultaneously.
Investigators could not determine the exact cause of the fire. It did, however, start at grade level on the outside of the structure near an area frequented by homeless. A warming or cooking fire is suspected to have spread into the building. Damage to the building and other structures was not reported.
Sprinklers control fire in lab
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Sprinklers operated in a laboratory of a defense contractor triggered a water flow alarm and summoning the fire department. Fire fighters, with help from onsite security, were able to gain access to the building and locate the room on fire and complete extinguishment, ventilation and investigation into the cause.
The fire occurred in a detached single-story laboratory and located on site with other research, development and manufacturing buildings. A wet-pipe sprinkler system was installed in the building and feed by a fire pump located in another building. The water flow was monitored by a central station alarm company and the building was operating at the time of the fire.
At 8:17 p.m., the fire department dispatched three engines and a ladder company to commercial fire alarm activation. On arrival at the security shack the security guard stated the alarm was for the pump house, as command ordered an engine company to investigate. Another engine was sent to the main panel, as yet a third engine and ladder was sent to a building sounding an audible alarm.
The smell of plastic filled the air of the building sounding the alarm, as the fire alarm system reported all zones in alarm. Entering the building they found smoke in a hallway and water coming under a locked door. Forcing the door fire fighter entered to find sprinklers operating and a small fire still burning on top of a table that was easily extinguished.
In this Section:
Specific purpose and proper protection
NFPA’s chief technician
Changing from an offensive to a defensive attack
Fire protection-rated doors
Gasoline in kerosene heater leads to deadly fire
National Fire Alarm Code® issues
Controlling home furnishing fires
In the chill of the night
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