Commercial building fire injures firefighter
MASSACHUSETTS — A fire that began in a concealed space in the basement of a restaurant in a commercial building burned for an undetermined amount of time before the fire alarm operated and notified the fire department.
The single-story, wood-frame building had a flat wood- and steel-framed roof covered by a built-up roof surface with a rubber coating. The building, which was 84 feet (26 meters) long and 42 feet (13 meters) wide, was protected by a fire alarm system that was monitored by a central station alarm company.
Firefighters responding to the 5:34 a.m. alarm had begun an interior attack when the floor collapsed, trapping two firefighters in the burning basement. After they were rescued, the incident commander switched to a defensive attack.
Investigators determined that the fire started in the basement under a take-out counter. Although they were unable to determine the exact ignition scenario, they ruled that the fire was unintentional.
Investigators also determined that a first-floor smoke detector activated and alerted the central station alarm company, but they did not discover why the basement detectors did not operate, as well.
The building, valued at $900,000, and its contents, valued at $800,000, were destroyed. Five firefighters were injured, including the two who fell into the basement when the floor collapsed.
Locked door leads to death
ALABAMA — A 60-year-old woman died of smoke inhalation when she was trapped by a locked door near a fire in the kitchen of her single family house. The house was less than a year old.
The two-story, wood-frame house had hardwired smoke alarms with battery backup that appeared to have operated as designed. The house had no sprinklers.
The fire started in a kitchen island, and the victim appears to have been searching for it when she opened a cabinet door, causing the fire to grow rapidly. Given the position of the island between her and the rest of the house, the woman was forced to use the kitchen door. The family reported that the door had a problem with the locking mechanism.
Investigators could not pinpoint the cause of ignition, but they ruled out any intentional causes.
The ambient temperature that day was over 100oF (38oC), and two firefighters were injured by the high heat and humidity. The house, valued at $600,000, and its contents, valued at $100,000, sustained a combined loss of $400,000.
Children playing with fire start deadly blaze
MISSOURI — A 43-year-old man and his 4-year-old twins died in a fire believed to have begun when one of the children ignited combustibles in their room. The two-story house, which also had a basement apartment, had a smoke alarm on both floors, but neither had a battery.
Fire department notification was delayed because the children’s mother and the person living in the basement apartment tried to rescue her husband and children. At some point, someone called 911 to report the fire at 10:20 p.m., and firefighters reached the scene in three minutes.
Arriving firefighters removed the three victims from the house, and the EMS crews attended to them while firefighters extinguished the blaze. Once the fire was out, investigators determined that it had started in the twins’ second-floor bedroom.
The children’s mother told investigators that at some point after the two children had gone to bed, the little boy came into her bedroom to report that his room was on fire. She ran to the room and tried unsuccessfully to get her daughter out. She thought her husband was watching television when the fire began, but he was asleep in bed and failed to escape. The basement occupants smelled smoke and went upstairs to investigate the source, but conditions prevented them from rescuing the three victims.
The mother said that her son had a history of igniting paper with the open flame of a candle. Investigators found a book of matches pushed under the box spring in the children’s bedroom.
The children and their father died of smoke inhalation. Damage to the house, which was valued at $45,000, was estimated at $5,000, while damage to the home’s contents, which were valued at $5,000, was estimated at $1,500.
Cigarette starts fatal fire
MINNESOTA — A 67-year-old woman died as a result of a fire in her apartment that began when a cigarette she dropped ignited paper on the floor. The three-story, wood-frame apartment building, which was 325 feet (99 meters) long and 75 feet (23 meters) wide, had a wood truss roof that was covered by asphalt shingles.
A central station alarm company monitored smoke detectors in the common hallways and heat detectors in all the units. The heat detection system operated properly. Hardwired smoke detectors had also been installed in the apartments, but they did not have battery backup. The building had a standpipe connection but no sprinklers.
Firefighters responding to a 5:27 a.m. call from the alarm company found smoke coming from a rear-facing balcony on the third floor. The first-due engine company connected to a hydrant to support the standpipe system, while other crews attached a hose line to the standpipe and advanced to the apartment of origin. Forcing the door, they entered the one-bedroom unit and found flames travelling across the ceiling. They played the hose stream on the flames and extinguished the fire.
Firefighters found the victim lying on the floor against her bed, unconscious but still breathing. They took her to the hospital, where doctors discovered she had suffered smoke inhalation and second- and third-degree burns to her right side, upper torso, and face. She was transferred to a burn center but died a week later.
Investigators determined that the fire began in the living room near an upholstered chair when the woman dropped a cigarette on paper on the floor nearby. The resulting fire spread to the chair and other items before it was extinguished.
Autopsy results indicated that the woman had a blood alcohol level of .189, which may have contributed to her death. The investigators believe she fell asleep, dropped her cigarette, awoke during the fire, and tried unsuccessfully to escape. The apartment’s smoke alarm may not have operated, since investigators found that the circuit to which it was wired had tripped.
The building was valued at $3 million, and its contents were valued at $1 million. Damage to the building is estimated at $20,000, while damage to the contents is estimated at $10,000. There were no other deaths or injuries.
Mother, three children die in apartment fire
MARYLAND — A 31-year-old mother and three of her children were fatally injured in their two-bedroom apartment in a fire that started when an electric baby bottle sterilizer was left on a gas stove.
The four-story, steel-frame apartment building, which was 250 feet (76 meters) long and 100 feet (30 meters) wide, had concrete floor slabs and a steel-frame roof. Local smoke alarms installed in the units near the bedrooms were not connected to a fire alarm system. There were no sprinklers.
The fire department received the alarm at 4:45 a.m. when a neighbor noticed smoke and called 911. Fire crews found the fire in the first-floor unit, extinguished it, and rescued the woman and her children, transporting them to area hospitals. The children were dead on arrival, but their mother survived for two weeks without regaining consciousness.
Investigators noted that a burner on the gas stove was in the open position and determined that the flame from the burner ignited a baby bottle sterilizer on the stove. The sterilizer’s cord, found in the bathroom sink, had charring and melting on the side that plugged into the appliance.
Once the fire started, it spread to the kitchen cabinets and up to the ceiling. The high ceiling and low doorway confined most of the fire to the kitchen, but heat and smoke spread through the unit. Neighbors reported hearing the smoke alarm sounding, but the mother and her infant daughter had been ill and on prescription medication, and the mother had needed help returning to her apartment from the rental office the afternoon before the fire.
Damage to the unit was estimated at $50,000 while damage to its contents was estimated at $10,000.
Fire kills family in new home
IDAHO — A early morning fire that started in a bedroom in a one-story manufactured home killed an 8-year-old girl, a 38-year-old man, and a 19-year-old woman the day they moved into their home. The man and the woman, who was eight months pregnant, were deaf, and the home had no smoke alarms for the hearing impaired.
A passerby called 911 at 2:30 a.m. to report fire coming from a window of the unsprinklered home, and responding firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the front-left corner of the dwelling.
They advanced a hose line to the front door, forced the door, and entered the home in search of three occupants reportedly still inside. They located all three and took them outside for medical treatment, but the victims died of smoke inhalation. An emergency Cesarean section on the mother failed to save the baby.
The home, valued at $10,000, and its contents, which were valued at $5,000, were destroyed.
Unattended cooking ignites deadly fire, killing elderly woman
NORTH CAROLINA — A physically handicapped 76-year-old woman died in a fire in her single-story, ranch-style home that started after a pan of oil was left cooking unattended on the stove.
The wood-frame house had a wood truss roof covered by asphalt shingles and a brick façade. Smoke alarms had been installed in the hallway and bedroom, but investigators could not determine whether they operated. The house had no sprinklers.
A pan of cooking oil left heating unattended on the electric, glass-topped stove for about 30 minutes eventually boiled over, and spilled onto the stove. The oil ignited, and the resulting fire spread to the upper cabinets and into the dining and living
The woman called 911 for help before she died of smoke inhalation.
The home, valued at $100,000, sustained $30,000 in damage. Its contents, valued at $12,000, were completely destroyed.
Man injured in unattended cooking fire
ILLINOIS — A man jumped from his second-floor balcony when a fire that began when he fell asleep and left food cooking unattended on the stove blocked his escape through the door leading from his apartment to the hallway.
The four-story, 64-unit apartment building, which was of ordinary construction, had a brick veneer and a wooden roof frame and deck with a built-up surface. The fire alarm system included hard-wired smoke detectors in the hallways and stairwells, and local smoke alarms in each unit. There were no sprinklers. The fire department did not report if the fire alarm in the unit of origin operated during the fire, but the detection system in the common hallways and stairwells operated properly.
After placing food on the gas stove to cook, the man fell asleep. Eventually the food overheated and ignited, and the resulting fire spread to the contents of the kitchen.
The man awoke to find his kitchen on fire and tried to escape, but the blaze forced him to retreat to his balcony, leaving the door to his apartment open. This allowed the fire to spread into the hallway.
Firefighters received the alarm at 2:17 a.m. and arrived within five minutes to find smoke coming from one side of the building and people evacuating the structure. Two engine companies managed to control the blaze, while other companies helped the occupants evacuate and searched the building.
The man who jumped from his balcony was injured, and two firefighters suffered from heat exhaustion. The building, valued at roughly $3 million, sustained property damage of $12,000. Damage to its contents was estimated at $25,000.
Cigarette dropped on blanket starts fatal fire
PENNSYLVANIA — An 83-yearold woman was fatally burned in her one-story, single-family home when the cigarette she was smoking ignited a blanket she had wrapped around her. The unsprinklered house had a smoke alarm, but it was not functional.
The woman was smoking on the sun porch at one end of the house when she apparently fell asleep, dropping her cigarette and igniting her blanket. A neighbor saw the fire and called 911, then went to help pull the victim from the porch. He also alerted the other occupant of the house, who escaped unharmed.
Firefighters arrived to find the home well involved in fire and called four other fire departments to help them extinguish the blaze.
The victim was airlifted to a trauma center, where she died several days later. When crews spoke to her before she died, she said she had fallen asleep while smoking.
The house, valued at $60,000, and its contents, valued at $30,000, were badly damaged.
Smoking materials start fire on porch
MINNESOTA — A fire that started on the porch of a second-floor apartment in a three-story apartment building spread to the third floor and into another apartment through an open door, forcing the residents to evacuate the building.
The 100-unit, wood-frame apartment building, which was 400 feet (122 meters) long and 70 feet (21 meters) wide, was one of four buildings in a complex. It was protected by a fire alarm system with smoke detectors and pull stations. The parking garage was protected by sprinklers, but the rest of the building had only a standpipe.
Members of an EMS unit on the way to a hospital saw heavy black smoke coming from the apartment building and radioed in the alarm just as the fire department received several 911 calls reporting a fire at the same location. Fire crews dispatched at 3:50 p.m. arrived within four minutes to find heavy fire and smoke coming from one side of the building. When firefighters had trouble getting to that side, they advanced their hose lines through the interior where they found extreme heat and fire conditions. The incident commander ordered everyone from the building and began a defensive attack. Ninety minutes later, the roof partially collapsed.
Investigators determined that the unintentional fire started when smoking materials ignited combustibles on a screened-in porch on the second floor. Driven by winds of 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 kilometers) per hour, the fire spread up into the unit above through an open door. From there, it spread quickly throughout the rest of the building.
An occupant of the second floor, whose primary exit was blocked by smoke, was injured when she jumped from a second-floor balcony. The building, valued at $5 million, sustained property damage of $1.5 million. Its contents sustained another $500,000 in damage.
Juveniles start fire in school
TEXAS — A fire set intentionally in the middle of the night in a school closed for the summer did an estimated $2 million in property damage, destroying the structure.
The single-story school, which had brick walls, concrete floor framing, and a metal-deck asphalt roof, covered 16,200 square feet (149 square meters). Smoke detectors in the hallways and common areas were connected to a fire alarm system, but the system was not monitored externally. There were no sprinklers.
The fire alarm operated as designed, but because it was unmonitored, no one noticed it until someone driving by the school saw smoke coming from the building and called 911 around 2:20 a.m.
Fire crews arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the rear of the structure and forced entry.
A ladder crew turned the building’s power off and laddered the roof to provide ventilation, while other crews advanced additional hose streams. They confined the fire to the classroom of origin, but open fire doors allowed smoke and heat to fill the entire school.
Investigators determined that juveniles intentionally ignited some paper and placed it in a classroom bookcase. The school’s video monitoring system showed two individuals leaving the building approximately 20 to 25 minutes before the fire was discovered.
One firefighter suffered heat-related injuries during the blaze.
Fire envelopes tank farm
KANSAS — Investigators determined that static electricity was responsible for a $1.5 million fire and explosion in a flammable liquid storage tank at a tank farm. The tank farm had 43 storage tanks of varying capacities, from a few thousand to almost 22,000 gallons (83,000 liters) of flammable liquids, including mineral spirits, hexane, isopropyl alcohol, and D-150.
The property also had a single-story, steel-frame office and warehouse building 274 feet (83.5 meters) long and 121 feet (37 meters) wide, with concrete block walls and a metal roof. Piping from the tanks led to a warehouse dock. The warehouse and office had sprinklers and a fire detection system, but they were not a factor during the fire.
A tank truck was off-loading naphtha near the piping area into a storage tank some distance away when the naphtha ignited. The fire immediately involved the tank and the 864 gallons (3,271 liters) of naphtha stored in it. Within minutes, the tank exploded into a ball of flames, and radiant heat and flames impinging on nearby tanks ignited them.
As soon as the fire began at 9:15 a.m., an employee called 911. Arriving firefighters, who saw heavy, black smoke coming from the middle of the tank farm, ascertained that the tank farm employees were accounted for, shut off the plant’s electricity, and evacuated a nearby business and homes. They protected the exposures with unmanned monitors and let the fire burn itself down to a manageable intensity before they extinguished it. The fire burned for nearly 12 hours before fire crews used foam supplied by a nearby U.S. Air Force base fire department and businesses to complete extinguishment.
Damages were estimated at $1.5 million. Two civilians were injured.