Author(s): Ken Tremblay Published on May 1, 2012


A fire in a Rhode Island mill building went to eight alarms and was finally extinguished four days after it began. (Photo: AP/Wide World)

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2012

MANUFACTURING

Cutting torch fire destroys mill
RHODE ISLAND — A large mill-type building that was being converted into a wood pellet manufacturing plant was destroyed by a fire that began when sparks from a cutting torch ignited its wooden support structure.

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES

March - April 2012
Overloaded power strip starts fatal fire

January - February 2012
Woman, two children die
in home fire
 

November - December 2011
Fire spreads from balcony into concealed spaces

September - October 2011
Kitchen fire damages restaurant 

July - August 2011
Gas explosion kills two

May - June 2011
Torch starts roof fire at lumber and hardware store

The four-story building, which measured 300 feet (91 meters) by 50 feet (15 meters), was constructed of heavy timber and had brick walls, wooden floors, and a wooden roof. Its fire detection system was tied directly to the fire department. The fire sprinkler system had been turned off while the building was being renovated.

The fire department received the alarm at 7:38 p.m. When firefighters arrived four minutes later, they could see no sign of fire on the outside of the building. While walking to the second floor, however, they smelled smoke and were informed that smoke was coming from several third-floor windows. When they got to the warehouse area on the second floor, they saw about 25 feet (8 meters) of fire near the ceiling. As smoke came pouring down the staircase, the firefighters made a fast exit and switched to exterior operations. Ultimately, the fire went to eight alarms, and the last unit was not cleared until four days later.

Investigators determined that workers using cutting torches on piping inadvertently heated the wooden structural framing to its ignition point and that the building caught fire 60 to 90 minutes after they completed work for the day.

Neither the value of the building and its contents nor damage estimates were reported. Two firefighters suffered dehydration while battling the fire and were transported from the scene by ambulance.

RESIDENTIAL

Man with mobility challenges dies in fire
MICHIGAN — A man who used a wheelchair died in a fire in his single-family home. Another occupant tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire and move the victim out of harm’s way, but the intense smoke and heat made it impossible.

The single-story, wood-frame house, which was 32 feet (10 meters) long and 29 feet (9 meters) wide, had a wooden roof deck covered with asphalt shingles. The house did not have a sprinkler system, but there was a battery-operated smoke alarm in the main hallway.

Investigators determined that the fire started when a lighted candle fell onto a bed in one of the bedrooms and ignited the bedding.

The fire was confined to the bedroom, although the adjacent hallway sustained smoke and heat damage.

The smoke from the fire, which was reported at 12:06 a.m. by an occupant, did not activate the smoke alarm. Investigators could not determine why the alarm failed to go off, as its battery was connected and was sufficiently charged.

Eighty percent of the house and 90 percent of its contents were damaged.

Disabled man dies in fire in his apartment
MASSACHUSETTS — A man in his 60s, who was confined to a wheelchair, was fatally injured when cardboard boxes sitting on the stove in his first-floor apartment’s kitchen ignited and the fire spread to the cabinets.

The 15-story, steel-frame apartment building, which was 150 feet (46 meters) long and 50 feet (15 meters) wide, had concrete block walls, an exterior veneer of brick, and a flat roof with a built-up surface. In addition to a sprinkler system, the building was equipped with a fire detection system that provided smoke detectors in common areas. Each apartment also had local smoke alarms.

The victim’s medical alert system contacted the fire department at 9 a.m. When firefighters arrived at the smoke-filled apartment, they found two sprinklers controlling the blaze. They removed the victim, while additional fire companies extinguished the fire and ventilated the unit.

Damage estimates for the building and its contents were not reported.

Sprinkler extinguishes apartment fire
MICHIGAN — A 90-unit apartment building used as senior housing sustained only minor damage before a sprinkler extinguished a small fire caused by an oscillating fan.

The three-story building, which was 140 feet (43 meters) long and 200 feet (61 meters) wide, had wooden walls and a wooden roof covered with asphalt shingles. A combination wet- and dry-pipe sprinkler system protected the entire property, including the attic. In addition, the building was equipped with a fire alarm system with a monitored water flow alarm.

Firefighters responding to a water flow alarm arrived to find a sprinkler operating in a third-floor apartment. It had already extinguished the blaze, which began when an electric oscillating fan in the corner of a bedroom overheated and ignited its plastic housing, producing enough heat to activate the sprinkler, which was 6 feet (2 meters) away. The sprinkler and a closed bedroom door limited the spread of smoke and heat.

The building and its contents, valued at $5.1 million, sustained structural damage estimated at $20,000 and damage to its contents estimated at $10,000.

Sprinkler extinguishes high-rise apartment fire
MINNESOTA — A single sprinkler extinguished an apartment fire that started after the tenant left the apartment and forgot to turn off a stovetop burner. Combustibles near the burner ignited, and the fire spread to a cabinet and a cardboard box before a sprinkler activated, tripping the fire alarm.

The 20-story apartment building, each floor of which covered 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters), was equipped with a fire alarm system and a sprinkler system, each of which worked as designed.

The fire department responded to a report of alarms sounding at 7:48 a.m. and arrived to find a fire burning in an apartment on the eleventh floor. When they entered the unit, they found the single sprinkler operating in the kitchen.

Damage to the building, which was valued at $4.1 million, was estimated at $1,000. Damage estimates for its contents were not reported. No one was injured.



FYI  SPRINKLERS SAVE LIVES
The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires is 83 percent lower in homes with sprinklers than in homes with no automatic suppres-
sion system. Fire sprinklers save lives, and NFPA is committed to doing all we can to bring this higher level of safety into homes across the United States. Learn more at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org.



Elderly man dies in manufactured home fire
IDAHO — A fire in a manufactured home, which was built before the Department of Housing and Urban Development promulgated its fire safety requirements, resulted in the death of an 85-year-old man.

The manufactured home, which was 65 feet (20 meters) long and 12 feet (4 meters) wide, had wooden walls and a metal roof. There was a bedroom at one end of the structure, and a bathroom, kitchen, and living room in the middle and at the opposite end. Instead of drywall, the builder had used wood paneling to cover the home’s inside walls. There were no smoke alarms, and the house did not have sprinklers.

A neighbor discovered the fire when he saw smoke coming from the home. He went to the front door and called out to the elderly man, then went into the home to try to find him. However, he had to leave when heavy smoke turned to flames that quickly swept through the structure.

The fire department received a 911 call at 5:20 p.m., and responding firefighters found that the fire had flashed over before they arrived, totally engulfing the house. It had already spread to two vehicles parked beside it and was also threatening two adjacent manufactured homes.

Firefighters deployed three 1 34-inch hose lines and a 2 12-inch line, first on the exposures and then on the burning home. They managed to extinguish the blaze but, given the condition of the structure, did not attempt a rescue. They later found the victim’s body lying on the floor in the kitchen, where he had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the fire started near the wood stove in the living room. The stove’s door was open and a bucket of kindling was sitting directly in front of it. A dustpan was just inside the door of the stove, and it appeared that burned wood inside it had been pushed to the side. While the exact scenario is not clear, investigators deduced that the fire began in the area of the wood stove and the kindling bucket. The victim’s son, who had visited his father earlier in the day, said that everything appeared to be normal, although his father had repeatedly told him he was cold. When he left, his father was sleeping and the heat was on. The wood stove was not in use, its door was shut, and three kindling buckets were lined up along the wall. The man also noted that his father had seemed weak.

The house and its contents, valued at $25,000, were destroyed. A storage shed, a tool shed, and two vehicles sustained an additional $13,500 in damage. Three other homes were also damaged, with losses totaling $11,300.

Man dies when he delays exit from burning home
VIRGINIA — A 71-year-old man with a history of medical problems died when he delayed his escape from an early morning fire in his home to retrieve a pair of shorts. The woman who owned the house made it safely outside by herself.

The three-bedroom, single-family, wood-frame ranch house, which was 60 feet (18 meters) long and 24 feet (7 meters) wide, had an attached carport and a finished basement containing a television room and a kitchenette. Its exterior walls were covered with brick and vinyl siding, and the roof was topped with asphalt shingles. Battery-operated smoke alarms were located outside and inside the bedrooms. There were no sprinklers.

The woman awoke to the sound of an operating smoke alarm and found smoke coming from the basement. She called for the victim, who had lung ailments that required that he use home oxygen. While the man called 911 to report the fire at 1:20 a.m., the woman looked downstairs and saw an upholstered couch on fire in the television room.

As they were leaving the house, the man decided that he needed to get a pair of shorts, as he was wearing only his undergarments. As he made his way down the hallway, the woman left and propped open the front door. She told investigators that she could not see him after he went down the hallway because it was “all black.” She also told them that she thought she heard him fall.

Firefighters, who arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the house, found the victim sitting on the kitchen floor near an exit and removed him from the house. Ambulance crews tried to revive him on the way to the hospital, where he later succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the basement television room. A sectional couch had been pushed up against an extension cord that showed signs of electrical failure near its blades. Heat from the extension cord failure ignited the upholstery, and the fire burned undetected until the smoke alarm sounded.

Direct flame damage was limited to the basement, although there was heavy smoke damage throughout the home. An oxygen generator and portable oxygen bottles were not affected by the fire.

The house and its contents, together valued at approximately $247,000, sustained $100,000 worth of damage. 

Boy, mother die in fire
SOUTH CAROLINA — A 35-year-old woman and her 7-year-old son died of smoke inhalation when they were overcome by smoke as they tried to leave their burning home.

The two-story, wood-frame structure had an asphalt-shingled roof and was equipped with smoke alarms, although the type and location were not reported. There were no sprinklers.

A neighbor called 911 to report the fire at 2 a.m. When arriving firefighers entered the home, they found the two victims lying just inside the door. They removed them from the home, performed CPR, and transported them to the hospital, where they died of their injuries.

Investigators determined that the operating smoke alarm woke the boy and his mother, and that they tried to escape but were overcome by smoke. The investigators also determined that the fire was started by an overloaded extension cord that ignited upholstered furniture in the living room.

The house, which was valued at $70,000, sustained $35,000 in damage. Its contents, which were valued at $40,000, sustained an estimated loss of  $10,000.

No smoke alarms in deadly house fire
IOWA — A 37-year-old man and his dog died in a fire that began behind the refrigerator in the kitchen of his single-family home.

The one-story, wood-frame house, which measured 24 feet (7 meters) by 20 feet (6 meters), had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.

An off-duty police officer discovered the fire and called 911 at 1:10 a.m. Firefighters arrived seven minutes later to find smoke and flames coming from the front of the home. They extinguished the blaze, which was concentrated in the kitchen, and removed the victim, who had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the unintentional fire started when combustible items behind the compressor area of the refrigerator ignited. There was notable damage to the inside of the refrigerator and heavy smoke damage throughout the structure. The house was badly cluttered with newspapers, junk mail, and similar material. Cardboard had been used to cover the windows, and there was evidence that the victim slept in the living room and used the bedroom as a storage area.

The fire destroyed the house, which was valued at $35,000, and its contents, valued at $10,000.

Woman dies when clothing ignites
MINNESOTA — An 85-year-old woman died of burns and smoke inhalation when a gas stove ignited her clothing.

The two-story, single-family, wood-frame house had a smoke alarm in the hallway near a first-floor bedroom. There were no sprinklers.

The woman’s son had called his mother twice in the morning. She mentioned that she had slept well but thought she had a stomach flu.

When he called again in the early afternoon, she did not answer, and he became worried so he left work to check on her. When he arrived at her house, he found the doors locked and thought he heard a smoke alarm sounding. He entered the house, to find it filled with smoke. In the kitchen, he found a stove burner on and shut it off, before he saw his mother lying on the floor. He called 911 at 2:13 p.m.

Responding firefighters found that the fire, which investigators later determined started when the woman’s clothes ignited as she was cooking or heating a kettle of water, had extinguished itself after consuming most of her clothing and spreading to some kitchen cabinets.The investigators believe that the woman fell backwards or tripped when her clothes started burning and hit the counter on the way to the floor. She suffered burns to nearly her entire body.

The house, valued at $159,400, sustained damage estimated at $30,000. Damage to its contents was estimated at $20,000.

Two die in high-rise apartment fire started by smoking materials
ALABAMA — A fire started by a cigarette killed a 64-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man in their ninth-floor apartment.

The 10-story apartment building, which contained 100 units, had concrete floors and walls. The apartment of origin covered an area of approximately 375 square feet (35 square meters). A fire alarm system had been installed to notify occupants, but there were no sprinklers.

Smoke from the fire activated the apartment’s smoke detector, alerting the building’s residents, one of whom called 911 at 9:50 p.m. The fire alarm system identified the apartment in which the fire was burning, and firefighters entered to find the charred bodies of the two victims. Both had died of smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the fire began in the living room/bedroom when a cigarette ignited upholstered furniture. Alcohol intoxication was listed as a contributing factor. 

Damages were not reported.

Fire play causes child’s death
IOWA — A 2-year-old boy died when another child playing with a lighter started a fire that blocked his escape route from his manufactured home.

The single-story home, which was 65 feet (20 meters) long and 14 feet (4 meters) wide, had wood-framed walls covered in metal siding and a metal roof. The home had no functioning smoke alarms.

An occupant noticed the fire and called 911 at 11:19 a.m. When fire two victims lying just inside the door. They removed them from the home, performed CPR, and transported them to the hospital, where they died of their injuries.
Investigators determined that the operating smoke alarm woke the boy and his mother, and that they tried to escape but were overcome by smoke. The investigators also determined that the fire was started by an overloaded extension cord that ignited upholstered furniture in the living room.

The house, which was valued at $70,000, sustained $35,000 in damage. Its contents, which were valued at $40,000, sustained an estimated loss of  $10,000.

No smoke alarms in deadly house fire
IOWA — A 37-year-old man and his dog died in a fire that began behind the refrigerator in the kitchen of his single-family home.
The one-story, wood-frame house, which measured 24 feet (7 meters) by 20 feet (6 meters), had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.

An off-duty police officer discovered the fire and called 911 at 1:10 a.m. Firefighters arrived seven minutes later to find smoke and flames coming from the front of the home. They extinguished the blaze, which was concentrated in the kitchen, and removed the victim, who had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the unintentional fire started when combustible items behind the compressor area of the refrigerator ignited. There was notable damage to the inside of the refrigerator and heavy smoke damage throughout the structure. The house was badly cluttered with newspapers, junk mail, and similar material. Cardboard had been used to cover the windows, and there was evidence that the victim slept in the living room and used the bedroom as a storage area.

The fire destroyed the house, which was valued at $35,000, and its contents, valued at $10,000.

Woman dies when clothing ignites
MINNESOTA — An 85-year-old woman died of burns and smoke inhalation when a gas stove ignited her clothing.

The two-story, single-family, wood-frame house had a smoke alarm in the hallway near a first-floor bedroom. There were no sprinklers.
The woman’s son had called his mother twice in the morning. She mentioned that she had slept well but thought she had a stomach flu.

When he called again in the early afternoon, she did not answer, and he became worried so he left work to check on her. When he arrived at her house, he found the doors locked and thought he heard a smoke alarm sounding. He entered the house, to find it filled with smoke. In the kitchen, he found a stove burner on and shut it off, before he saw his mother lying on the floor. He called 911 at 2:13 p.m.

Responding firefighters found that the fire, which investigators later determined started when the woman’s clothes ignited as she was cooking or heating a kettle of water, had extinguished itself after consuming most of her clothing and spreading to some kitchen cabinets.The investigators believe that the woman fell backwards or tripped when her clothes started burning and hit the counter on the way to the floor. She suffered burns to nearly her entire body.

The house, valued at $159,400, sustained damage estimated at $30,000. Damage to its contents was estimated at $20,000.

Two die in high-rise apartment fire started by smoking materials
ALABAMA — A fire started by a cigarette killed a 64-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man in their ninth-floor apartment.

The 10-story apartment building, which contained 100 units, had concrete floors and walls. The apartment of origin covered an area of approximately 375 square feet (35 square meters). A fire alarm system had been installed to notify occupants, but there were no sprinklers.

Smoke from the fire activated the apartment’s smoke detector, alerting the building’s residents, one of whom called 911 at 9:50 p.m. The fire alarm system identified the apartment in which the fire was burning, and firefighters entered to find the charred bodies of the two victims. Both had died of smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the fire began in the living room/bedroom when a cigarette ignited upholstered furniture. Alcohol intoxication was listed as a contributing factor. 

Damages were not reported.

Fire play causes child’s death
IOWA — A 2-year-old boy died when another child playing with a lighter started a fire that blocked his escape route from his manufactured home.

The single-story home, which was 65 feet (20 meters) long and 14 feet (4 meters) wide, had wood-framed walls covered in metal siding and a metal roof. The home had no functioning smoke alarms.

An occupant noticed the fire and called 911 at 11:19 a.m. When fire fighters arrived, they found the center portion of the home fully involved and used an interior attack from one end and the middle of the structure in an effort to rescue the boy. Once they knocked the fire down, they found the child inside, near a back door. He died of smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that a young boy used a lighter to ignite paper on a bed and that the resulting fire spread to the contents of the room and the middle of the home before firefighters extinguished it.

The structure and its contents, which together were valued at $5,600, were destroyed.

Cigarette starts fire in senior housing complex
FLORIDA — A fire broke out in an apartment complex that was home to mostly older adults when a resident fell asleep in a chair while smoking a cigarette, despite the facility’s rules against smoking in the building.

The single-story complex had concrete block walls and a hardwired smoke detection system that was monitored by a central station alarm company. There were no sprinklers.

The fire detection system alerted the building residents, and responding firefighters arrived to extinguish the fire as the occupants evacuated. Three people were taken to the hospital.

Damage estimates were not reported, but the fire consumed the chair and the room’s contents, and smoke damaged the hallway leading to the room.

Mother, son die in house fire
WASHINGTON — A passerby called 911 at around midnight to report a fire that killed a 41-year-old mother and her 2-year-old son as they tried to escape from their single-family home. Firefighters found the two next to the crib in the child’s second-floor bedroom, overcome by smoke.

The two-story, wood-frame house had smoke alarms outside the bedrooms and on each level. They operated as designed.

Investigators determined that a cloth dog bed placed too close to an operating portable space heater ignited and that the resulting fire spread to a couch, filling the house with heavy smoke. They believe the mother became disoriented when she went upstairs to rescue her son from his crib and sat down on the floor with the child.

The house, which was valued at $171,500, sustained $30,000 worth of damage. Its contents, which were valued at $25,000, sustained an estimated  loss of $5,000.

Discarded cigarette starts fire that kills one
MICHIGAN — A 31-year-old man died of smoke inhalation in a fire that burned undetected on the first floor of his two-story house until the family dog woke his parents, who were asleep in a first-floor bedroom.

The exterior of the one-and-a-half-story, single-family, wood-frame house, which covered an area of 900 square feet (84 square meters), was covered with vinyl siding. The roof was covered in asphalt shingles. One smoke alarm had been installed in the basement, and investigators found another on a shelf in the dining room. However, neither had a battery. They also found a smoke alarm mounting plate on the wall above the bathroom door on the first floor. There were no smoke alarms on the second floor, and the house was unsprinklered.

The victim’s parents, who were both in their 60s, were awoken by the family dog. When the father went to see what was bothering the animal, he found the living room couch on fire. He called to his wife, then tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out using a pan of water. She, too, tried to extinguish the fire using more water. When that didn’t work, the couple yelled to their son, who was sleeping upstairs, and left the house. They called 911 to report the fire at 3:01 a.m.

By the time firefighters arrived just over five minutes later, flames were coming from the front door and the front window, and there was heavy smoke throughout house. Police officers already on the scene told them someone was still in the building, probably on the second floor. Using two 1 3/4-inch hose lines to knock down the heavy fire, one crew began advancing into the house while another placed a ground ladder to a second-floor window in an attempt to rescue the victim. Unfortunately, the window was too small to enter.

When firefighters reached the second floor, they found the victim’s body lying on the floor of the bedroom near his bed. They left him in place for investigators.

The investigators followed the burn patterns directly to the upholstered couch in the front-facing living room where, according to the man’s mother, she had seen her son smoking and using a laptop computer before she went to bed. They determined that the unintentional fire started when smoking materials ignited the couch. The man’s parents told the investigators that their son had a history of discarding or dropping cigarettes and had once set the very same couch on fire. The victim also had a history of drinking alcohol, and his autopsy showed that he had been drinking on the evening of the fire, which may have contributed to his death.

The fire completely destroyed both the house, which was valued at $50,000, and its contents, which were valued at $20,000.

Leaking LP-gas tank causes house explosion
NORTH DAKOTA — Two adults were injured and their baby girl was killed when LP-gas from a leaking tank collected in the basement of their home and ignited when the water pump began operating.

The single-family, wood-frame home had a concrete block foundation and a roof covered with asphalt shingles. The presence of smoke alarms or sprinklers was not reported.

When the family arrived home in the late afternoon on the day of the explosion and smelled gas, they opened the windows and left the house for a while. When they returned, they could still smell gas, so the man told the woman to go outside with the baby. He then went to the basement to turn the water heater control to pilot and returned to the first floor. He had just turned the faucet in the bathroom on to wash his hands when an explosion demolished the house. It was later discovered that turning the water on caused a drop in the water tank pressure, creating a spark that caused the LP-gas to explode.

Neighbors heard the explosion and called 911 at 7:46 p.m., then went to help the family. They found the man in the wreckage of the house and the woman some 50 feet (15 meters) away from it. The baby was found dead more than 75 feet (23 meters) away from the house. All three were taken to the hospital.

Investigators traced the leaking LP-gas to a 500-gallon (1,893-liter) tank. The occupants had requested a delivery of LP-gas the night before the explosion because they had run out, and the gas was delivered that day. The delivery person did not detect the leak at the valve.

The investigator concluded that the delivery person had not properly tested the tank regulator and shut-off valve because the family was not at home when he delivered the gas. Nor was the tank red-tagged, or the occupants instructed to call to have the lines bled and pilot lights relit. Over time, the leaking gas accumulated until the water pump provided the ignition source.

Neither loss estimates nor the victims’ ages were reported.

ASSEMBLY

Suppression systems control restaurant grease fire
PENNSYLVANIA — A kitchen extinguishing system and a sprinkler that activated during a fire in an Asian restaurant limited fire damage.
The single-story restaurant building, which was 20 feet (6 meters) wide and 40 feet (12 meters) long, was protected by a wet-pipe sprinkler system and a kitchen hood suppression system, both of which were connected to a monitored fire alarm system.

Investigators determined that the fire started in grease deposits that had formed in the bottom of smoke box cooking equipment and spread to a deep fat fryer, causing the hood extinguishing system to activate.

Additional heat fused a nearby sprinkler, which held the fire in check until the fire department arrived to extinguish the blaze. The kitchen’s hood system extinguished the fire in the deep fryer.

Suppression system controls kitchen hood fire
UTAH — A fire suppression system controlled a fire that started in the hood duct of a restaurant kitchen, but the fire fed off the grease that had built up in the duct and continued to burn until firefighters extinguished it. The building was occupied when the fire broke out, but everyone had evacuated safely by the time firefighters arrived.

Someone called 911 to report the blaze at 4:20 p.m., and firefighters arrived four minutes later to find smoke coming from the roof. The restaurant owner told the incident commander that the hood had caught fire after they started the grill. It looked as though the hood suppression system had put the fire out, but firefighters on the roof reported that they could still see the fire burning in the ductwork some 8 feet (2 meters) below them. When they were unable to get water on the flames from their position, they recommended an interior attack.

Interior crews advanced a hose line into the kitchen and opened the ceiling around the ductwork. Once the duct was exposed, they saw that the grease and creosote that had built up on the sides of it were still burning. Fortunately, the duct maintained its integrity, preventing the fire and heat from escaping into hidden areas before it was extinguished.

Investigators noted that that the hood suppression system heads did not discharge properly.

Damage to the property and its contents was estimated at $5,000. There were no injuries.

HEALTHCARE

Maintenance worker extinguishes electrical fire
TEXAS — A hospital maintenance worker detected a fire that started when mops and cardboard boxes stored in a mechanical and electrical room ignited after a fire started in an overheated electrical panel. The worker extinguished the blaze before sprinklers could activate.

The single-story, steel-frame hospital, which was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 40 feet (12 meters) wide, had concrete walls. The building had an automatic detection system and a wet-pipe sprinkler system.

The fire detection system alerted the hospital’s occupants and the fire department at 6:24 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived four minutes later, however, the maintenance staff had extinguished the blaze.

Investigators found that a loose electrical lug securing an electrical cable on a panel that provided electricity to a chiller had caused the short circuit. Before they left the scene, firefighters were advised that the electrical power to that panel had been by-passed in order to restore function to the chiller and other equipment.

The value of the building and its contents was not reported, but damage estimates are reported to have come to approximately $1,000. There were no injuries.

MERCANTILE

Flames destroy consumer fireworks store
TENNESSEE — A store selling consumer fireworks was destroyed by fire when its contents were ignited by an unknown source.
The one-story, steel-frame building, which had metal walls and a metal roof, covered approximately 6,400 square feet (595 square meters). The building had two doors and a display window in front, a roll-up door near the warehouse section of the building, and another door located at the rear. It had no fire alarm system, and the dry-pipe sprinkler system had been shut down due to a broken air compressor.

Between 2:29 and 2:31 a.m., the fire department dispatch center received a number of phone calls reporting that the building was on fire. When arriving firefighters found flames shooting from the building’s roof and windows, the incident commander ordered mutual aid from five other communities around the area.

After sifting through the debris, investigators determined that the fire started in a corner or near some wooden racks that contained fireworks, but they could not find the ignition source.

The fire destroyed the building, which was valued at $495,000, and its contents, which were valued at $130,000. No civilians or firefighters were reported injured.

STORAGE

Sparks ignite furniture plant
MICHIGAN — Workers salvaging items from a former furniture manufacturing plant inadvertently started a fire that heavily damaged the three-story building and caused a partial collapse of the roof.

The walls, floors, and roof of the building, much of which was vacant, were made of large dimensional lumber. The irregularly shaped structure ranged from 234 to 430 feet (71 to 131 meters) long and was approximately 80 feet (24 meters) wide. A wet-pipe sprinkler system had been installed, but it had been converted to a dry-pipe system about a year before the fire. Water flow was monitored by a central station fire alarm, and portable fire extinguishers were available throughout the building. However, many of the fire doors dividing the building into sections and protecting the stairwells had been removed.

The fire department received a central station water flow alarm at 12:27 p.m. and, as the first engine rolled out the door, firefighters could see a plume of smoke in the sky. While en route, they noted smoke and flames coming from a section of the building on the third floor and immediately struck a second alarm.

The fire department began receiving 911 calls at about the same time it received the central station alarm. In the background of a call made from the parking lot, dispatchers could hear the water flow alarm operating.

The incident commander decided to fight the fire defensively and tried to keep fire spread in the building to a minimum. Crews placed four master streams using multiple water supply lines between the burning section of the building and the portion that was not yet involved. Because a strong easterly wind was blowing, the incident commander also ordered that windows on the windward side of the building be opened, which successfully helped keep heat and smoke from entering the unburned area of the structure.

The operation of the master streams and other hose lines caused a decrease in water pressure, as did the amount of water being supplied to the sprinklers. An engine company supplying the building’s fire department connection reported that a hose was kinking. Crews had to lay additional hose from hydrants farther away from the fire to increase water flow.

Investigators learned that on the day of the fire the salvage crew was using a circular saw and a reciprocating saw to separate metal ductwork from a former spray booth. A crew member using the reciprocating saw to cut a duct off at the ceiling said he smelled and saw greenish-yellow, acrid smoke. He made a vertical cut in the duct, peeled back the metal, and emptied a fire extinguisher into the duct in an attempt to extinguish the fire. The crew then used several more portable fire extinguishers before leaving the building as the fire intensified.

The spray booth had been used to apply lacquer during the furniture production process, and the investigators determined that sparks from the saw ignited a lacquer build-up. The fire quickly spread along the ceiling to combustible construction through the opening the salvage crew member had made in the ductwork.

Although the sprinkler system in the area of origin was overwhelmed by the fire, it did help prevent the blaze from spreading any further.

The structure suffered a $3 million loss, while damage to its contents was estimated at $250,000. No one was reported injured.

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