NFPA Journal®, November/December 2007
Oily rags ignite fire in cabinet shop
The fire occurred in the section of the plant where wooden cabinets were stained and finished.
Once the fire started, it spread to nearby cabinets and the office at the top of the stairs. When the fire department arrived, smoke was coming from the warehouse section of the building. Forcing entry into several doors, firefighters advanced a hose line into the building and extinguished the flames. Other crews ventilated the building, overhauled and investigated the cause of the fire. The building, valued at $750,000, had $100,000 in loss and the contents valued at $500,000 suffered $100,000 in loss. There were no injuries.
Vapors from floor sealant ignite
Fire in drying oven causes significant loss
A dry-pipe sprinklers system providing full coverage to the building failed to operate during the fire and efforts by employees to control the fire were unsuccessful. The single-story, steel-frame building measured 400 feet (121 meters) in length and 200 feet (60 meters) in width. It had metal walls, a metal roof and two food dryers with a dividing wall between them inside the building. The three-section dryers had multiple doors allowing access to the blower section on the bottom, conveyor in the middle, and gas-fired burners and ventilation on the top section. Fire protection included multiple portable fire extinguishers and a fire pump and sprinkler system fed by a water storage reservoir. The plant was operating at the time of the fire.
An employee observed smoke in a section of the building and found a fire burning in the middle section of one of the food dryers. For nearly 10 minutes, employees tried to extinguish the fire using portable fire extinguishers and water-spray equipment that was not designed for fire protection. A 911 call from the employees alerted the fire department, which arrived 27 minutes after alarm.
Fire fighters extinguished the fire and limited damage to just two sections of the oven, and the onions in the oven. There was, however, smoke damage throughout the building. Investigators examined the equipment and found debris covering the gas-fired burners that had fallen off or was dislodged and then ignited. Evidence of previous fires was also noted as employees reported product often ignites within the oven but is usually easily extinguished.
Damage to the building, which was valued at more than $12 million with contents of $300,000, had losses estimated at $3 million and $130,000 in content loss. Investigators also found the fire pump room covered in an oily residue and the fuel tank to the fire pump empty. Some A 256 sprinklers fused during the fire, but were ineffective due to a lack of water being pumped from the reservoir. Two employees suffered smoke inhalation during extinguishment attempts.
'Warming' fire suspected as cause to major 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 believed 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 located 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. However, it started 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.
Older adult dies in house fire
The single-story, ranch home was constructed of wood framing and measured 65 feet (19 meters) in length and 30 feet (9 meters) in width. There were no smoke alarms or sprinklers in the home.
An electrical short in the den located in the middle of the structure ignited the fire. The women's bedroom shared the common wall with the room of origin, which allowed products of combustion to fill the victim's bedroom and the rest of the home. The fire department arrived with five minutes and found the woman during the primary search and paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. A lack of smoke alarms in the home contributed to the death. The home, valued at $110,000 had losses estimated at $55,000. One firefighters suffered minor injuries during the blaze.
Combustibles near heater ignite deadly fire
Everyone was asleep when the woman woke to fire near the door of her daughter's bedroom. Escaping from the home, the mother instructed her son to go to a neighbor's house and have them call the fire department while she tried to fight the fire. The fire department received the call at 7:09 a.m. and arrived within six minutes. They knocked down the heavy fire and found the victim.
A lack of smoke alarms contributed to the delay in detection and fire blocking the doorway prevented the mother from gaining access to the room. The home and contents, having a combined value of $10,000, were a total loss.
Careless smoking ignites deadly fire
The single-family home measured 75 feet (22 meters) in length and was 16 feet (4 meters) wide. The home did not have smoke alarms or sprinklers.
At 8:03 p.m., the fire department received a 911 call from a neighbor reporting the fire and a person trapped in the home. When the fire department arrived with three engine companies, fire was venting from windows. Crews entered the fully involved living room where the 54-year old victim was found on a couch.
Fire fighters used two nearby hydrants and stretched four hose lines to control the fire. Investigators determined the victim had fallen asleep on the couch while watching television and smoking a cigarette. The cigarette ignited bedding covering the victim. Fire spread to other combustibles and oxygen tubing causing the fire to accelerate. The home, valued at $24,500, was a total loss.
Kerosene heater tips over, ignites fatal fire
The fire began when a kerosene heater was accidentally knocked over. The occupants attempted to extinguish the fire themselves, but the victim remained in the home despite the other occupant urging him to leave. Fire fighters found the man just 3 feet (1 meter) from a rear door where he succumbed to smoke inhalation and burns.
The manufactured home was 56 feet (17 meters) in length by 12 feet (3.6 meters) in width with a 10 foot (3 meter) by 15 foot (4.5 meter) bedroom addition located at one end. The three-bedroom home included a large living and kitchen area and one bathroom. Smoke alarms could not be located in the debris and may not have been installed. There were no sprinklers.
Shortly before 10 p.m., the male occupant went into the living room where he knocked over a kerosene heater. He returned to one of the bedrooms, alerting the other occupant, a woman, to the fire. They attempted to use a blanket to smother the fire without success and decided to escape. Both occupants headed toward a rear door because fire blocked the front entrance. The woman escaped without injury. Outside, she called several times to the man, but he did not come out of the house. A police officer who was first to arrive reported that the home was 60 percent involved in fire and he was unable to gain access to save the victim.
Clothes ignite near dryer in fatal fire
The fire was initially held in check by failure of a domestic water line feeding the water heater. This limited fire loss, but smoke damage was reported.
The fire occurred on one side of a wood-frame duplex that measured 54 feet (16 meters) in length and 46 feet (14 meters) in width. The roof was wooden and covered with asphalt shingles. A garage was located at the front of the house. The front door led to a living room, and a combined dining room and kitchen. Two bedrooms and a bathroom were down the hallway from the living room. Battery-operated smoke alarms were in the hallway, kitchen/dining area, and garage.
However, the kitchen smoke alarm was removed.
Adult occupants were alerted to the fire from the smoke alarm operating in the hallway at 2:54 a.m. Fire fighters were told that three small children were victims and the children were not breathing.
On arrival, crews provided emergency treatment to the children while others entered the home that was filled with smoke. Interior crews found the fire that started in the dining room in a laundry closet containing a washer, dryer, and water heater.
Investigators found that burnt clothing in the dryer and a large amount of clothing stored around the dryer. The exact ignition sequence was not reported;, however, a delay in detection may have been a factor. Carbon monoxide poisoning killed a boy and a girl, age 2 ½, and a boy, age 3 ½. Losses to the home and contents were not reported.
Electrical short ignites deadly fire
Smoke alarms were on the first floor and basement level of the home, but it is unknown if they operated because the occupants died in the fire.
The wood-frame, single-story home had a wooden roof covered with asphalt shingles. It measured 45 feet (13 meters) in length and 28 feet (8.5 meters) in width. The home changed grade to its rear and exposed another living level in the basement. There were no sprinklers.
Shortly before midnight, a neighbor observed what he thought was a brushfire at the home. Because of his distance from the home, the neighbor used the scope of a rifle to assess the fire and saw that it was not a brush pile but it was his neighbor's home that on fire. He called 911 at 11:42 p.m. and then ran to the home to try and to help out. The fire department arrived to find that the home was well involved and a car in an attached carport was also on fire. Using two hose lines from one end of the home, they knocked down the fire and placed a ladder against a window where witnesses reported the occupants were located.
Fire fighters found one occupant in a bedroom. Additional hose lines were brought in once a water supply was established. The second victim was found at the bottom of the basement stairs.
The fire started in the first-floor living room, spread toward the bedrooms, and then the stairs leading to a finished basement. Investigators removed and examined the wiring of the electric heater before determining the unintentional cause of the fire. The victims, an 88-year-old male and a 90-year-old female, were the sole occupants and they died of smoke inhalation and burn injuries. The home valued at $180,000 and contents of $90,000 were total losses.
Fraternity house fire kills one and injures three others
At the time of the fire, there were between 30 and 35 people at the house and several had to be rescued by fire fighters. Others escaped uninjured. The wood-frame structure had bedrooms on several levels. Smoke detectors were in the hallway and a fire detection system with manual pull stations was also present. Fire extinguishers were present, but sprinklers were not installed. A party had taken place within the home earlier in the evening and many occupants were still awake when the fire broke out.
Around 4 a.m., one occupant returned to the house and discovered smoke in the stairway He then found smoke coming from a second floor bedroom where he found the room's occupant standing there with a small fire burning on a futon mattress. After telling the occupant to get out of the room, he went down to the end of the hallway and pulled the fire alarm to alert the rest of the house.
The fire department received telephone calls from one occupant and the central station alarm company reporting the fire alarm at 4:04 a.m. On arrival, smoke filled the building with fire on the second floor. With many occupants still in the home, the fire department had a difficult time with its search-and-rescue efforts. The fire burning through the roof forced a defensive response.
Eventually all occupants were removed from the house and those injured sent to area hospitals.
Investigators confirmed that the fire started in the second floor room where it was first discovered. It was also the bedroom of the lone fatality.
Several investigative agencies were used to determine the source of ignition, and after eliminating many of the possible ignition sources, believe the fire occurred from either incendiary origins or the use of fireworks. Earlier in the evening several witnesses reported the use of fireworks in the building. Once the mattress ignited it spread to other combustibles in the room and other areas of the home.
The building was valued at $1,100,000 and had contents of $300,000. Damage to the building was estimated at $750,000 with loss of contents of $150,000. Contributing to the fire, injuries, and death were exit lights being covered in the home and several of the injured were under the influence of alcohol.
Child playing with lighter ignites deadly fire
A lack of operating smoke alarms delayed detection and allowed fire and smoke to travel up a flight of stairs, trapping the family in a bedroom where fire fighters found them.
The single-family home was wood framed and measured 16 feet (4.8 meters) in width by 60 feet (18 meters) in length. The first floor had a living room at the front with a dining room and stairwell in the center, and a kitchen to the rear. Bedrooms were on the second floor. A battery-operated smoke alarm was in the hallway, but the batteries were missing and it was not mounted properly. There were no sprinklers.
A child used the open flame of a cigarette lighter to ignite a cardboard box containing a bed frame near the base of the stairs in the dining room. The fire extended to furnishings and contents of the first floor, as smoke and heat traveled to the second floor trapping the occupants.
Fire fighters received a 911 call at 9:30 p.m. from a passerby and responded. They were able to rescue three of the four victims from a bedroom;, however, one victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Killed in the fire were a 36-year-old female; two girls, age 14 and 8; and a 4-year-old boy. The older girl died of smoke inhalation and burns, but the others suffered fatal smoke inhalation. The home valued at $50,000 with $10,000 worth of contents was a total loss.
Gasoline spread and ignited at base of stairs trapped eight and killing four
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-year-old female in a front-facing bedroom and mover her outside. A secondary search found a 4-year-old boy wrapped in blankets 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 firefighters 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
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 small fire
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 dry-pipe 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 spreading in concealed attic space engulfs building
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 dry cleaners 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 dry cleaners 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 a 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, heat ignited them and fire 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
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. 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.
Leaking natural gas line ignites in commercial kitchen
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) wood-framed 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 behind him and turned 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 the occupants evacuating and the sprinkler system operating. Using a hose line, the crew advanced into the kitchen and extinguished the remaining fire behind the stove. They also shut -off the flow of gas using the quarter turn valve. Other crews provided ventilation and gained access to the sprinkler valve to shut down the system.
Once the natural gas began to leak from the valve, it was most probably ignited by standing pilots of the commercial gas-fired range. Investigators found the valve was not capped and several other fire safety violations. 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.
Sprinklers hold fire in check in home store
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 where the fire started and several sprinklers were operated. The crews shut down the sprinklers to overhaul the fire and attempt to ventilate the building. During the 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. They found that portions of the roof were still on fire. They, opened the roof and provided for final extinguishment.
Sprinklers control fire in lab
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 fed 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, and command ordered an engine company to investigate. Another engine was sent to the main panel, and a third engine and ladder were 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, firefighters entered to find sprinklers operating and a small fire still burning on top of a table, which they easily extinguished. Shutting down the post indicator valve and ventilating the building, firefighters realized they were in a laboratory and quickly evacuated to begin gross decontamination until the source of experiments was determined.
The cause of the fire was the failure of controls to a transparent furnace used in the heating and growing of crystals and the development of new compounds. Either the thermocouple or process controller failed, causing the furnace to explode and igniting a nearby cardboard box and small plastic storage drawers. As the fire grew the sprinklers activated and held the fire in check. An on site chemist confirmed the material was of low toxicity and the firefighters in the room during extinguishment were in no danger.
Values of the building and contents were not reported, but the losses to the furnace and contents of the room damaged by fire or water was less than $50,000. There were no injuries.