Category Archives: National Fire Rescue News

Riverfront eight alarm fire in Philly

Developer J. Brian O’Neill dreamed of bringing people back to the banks of the Schuylkill in Conshohocken. And yesterday, they came by the thousands – to watch in horror as his vision went up in flames.

This morning, fire trucks were still on the scene as embers from the buildings smoldered. Firefighters napped on the sidwalks littered with debris and water bottles.

Six riverfront buildings that O’Neill developed, including the Riverwalk at Millennium, were ravaged by an eight-alarm blaze: Three were destroyed, three damaged.

More than 300 firefighters from all corners of Montgomery County battled the spectacular fire, which raged for about six hours before crews got the upper hand about 10:30 p.m. Even so, firefighters were to remain overnight to douse hot spots.

From emergency workers to newly homeless residents, few could grasp how swiftly the flames turned a redevelopment showpiece with a clubhouse and courtyard into a smoldering disaster zone. At least 125 apartment units, housing 375 people, were destroyed.

The blaze began in a five-story building under construction at 203 Washington St. called the Stables at Millennium and spread quickly across what one official called a “lumberyard.”

The description was apt. The building was in the framing stage, which involves putting together the bones of the structure out of kiln-dried two-by-fours, plywood and lumber, materials that can burn very quickly.

Montgomery County Sheriff John Durante, who is also a longtime volunteer firefighter, said he had arrived on the scene soon after the fire was reported. “I’ve never seen a fire this intense burn so fast,” he said last night.

He figured that the blaze began in the end of the building closest to the river and spread to the front – about 100 yards – in 15 minutes.

At the height of the fire, flames encompassed the entire structure and were as tall as the building itself. They radiated so much heat that the roofs of adjacent buildings caught.

The cause of the fire – which began about 4:30 p.m. – was unknown.

“Jobs like this just beat everyone up,” said Leo Costello, an assistant fire chief in Conshohocken who was catching his breath late last night. He had been on the scene since about 5.

Riverfront fires are among the most challenging because of the difficulty in routing enough water into the area, fire officials said.

Embers and flames jumped from the Stables to adjacent apartment buildings in the Riverwalk complex, said Tom Sullivan, Montgomery County public safety director. The attics of those buildings caught fire, which “enabled the fire to get around the fire walls,” he said.

One firefighter who suffered from smoke inhalation and a young woman who collapsed were taken to Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Because the buildings border the river and railroad track, “access is challenged,” Sullivan said. “They’re working through it, and have been cutting down fencing.”

Sullivan said the borough had a limited water supply, which it was trying to overcome with supplies from other fire companies and lots of hose. “They’re making very good progress,” he said.

He noted that the fire was in what used to be an industrial area with limited firefighting infrastructure.

Ten fire companies responded.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who could see the smoke from his home in Roxborough, said this type of riverfront fire was particularly difficult to tackle.

In Philadelphia, water mains dead-end at the river, and hydrants at waterfront locations tend to have lower water pressure, he said.

“It’s a very challenging firefighting moment,” Ayers said. “They’re up against the size of the fire . . . and getting water resources together to get in front of the fire.” The Philadelphia Fire Department was not called to the scene.

West Coast 911 firefighting news source – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Two scaffold workers rescued in Fort Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE – Two workers were rescued Wednesday afternoon after their scaffold collapsed and they were left dangling high up the side of a 17-story condo building.

Fort Lauderdale firefighters rappeled down the White Egret condos at 2200 Northeast 33rd Avenue to reach the workers after getting the trouble call at about 2:20 p.m.

Part of the dramatic rescue was televised nationally.

One of the workers was taken to Holy Cross Hospital with minor injuries, said Battalion Chief William Findlan. The other worker declined to be treated.
Findlan did not have their names.

Waletta Wright, the condo secretary, said the two workers were with Plantation-based Reach Service & Equipment Inc. and had gone up to repair the company’s scaffolding.

Wright said the scaffolding had gotten stuck and wouldn’t go up and down, which is why they were trying to fix it.

It was not clear what caused the scaffold to collapse.

One worker was rescued clinging to the scaffolding on the 14th floor, while the other was hanging from his harness nine stories up.

“It was obviously a precarious situation for them,” Findlan said.

George Denesevich, who owns the Peaceful Dove Inn in front of the 160-unit building, said he heard a loud noise and ran outside. He looked up and saw the scaffolding had collapsed.

“As I looked a little closer, I saw the other guy dangling,” Denesevich said. “He definitely looked hurt.”

Findlan said the workers had probably been hanging for about 45 minutes before firefighters hauled them into the building. Both had their safety harnesses on, he said.

A fire department 100-foot ladder truck assisted in the rescue.

Denesevich said workers have been renovating the building for almost two years, since Hurricane Wilma.

Darlene Fossum, director of the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Fort Lauderdale office, said such accidents involving suspended scaffolds have been rare in South Florida.

“We have not had a lot of issues with that in South Florida in the recent past,” Fossum said.

Fossum said her office is investigating the accident.

West Coast firefighting news source – The Sun Sentinal

Small plane crash in Massachusetts kills 3

EASTON, MA — A cancer patient was among three people killed this morning when a single-engine airplane operated by Angel Flight New England crashed on its way from an airport in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., to Logan International Airport, officials at the nonprofit group said.

The crash at 10:25 a.m. left a male patient, his wife, and the pilot dead. The patient was being taken to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for cancer treatment, said Amy Camerlin, a spokeswoman for Angel Flight, an organization of volunteer pilots that helps needy patients get medical care.

“Sadly, we learned the Angel flight patient and his wife and the pilot were lost,” Camerlin said in a phone interview. “They were traveling to Boston for medical treatment. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the patient’s and pilot’s families.”

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, confirmed that the pilot was flying a Long Island couple to Boston for medical treatment. The plane crashed in the back row of a blacktop parking lot of a Hannaford’s supermarket on Robert Drive near Route 106. No one was injured on the ground.

“It was like a fireball,” said Darcy Stillman, 35, the manager of the Tanfastic Tanning Salon in the shopping plaza. “We could see there were people inside [the plane], but there was nothing you could do. It was horrible.

“We watched them burn … we felt helpless,” said Stillman as tears dripped down her cheeks. “That poor family, that poor family, that poor family.”

The spokeswoman for Angel Flight New England said today in an e-mail that the Easton crash was the organization’s first injury or fatality after flying over 7 million miles in its 12-year existence. Angel Flight New England is a member of the Air Charity Network, which is described on its website as the world’s largest charitable air transportation network with more than 7,500 volunteer pilots.

Richard Bunker, an inspector for the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission who rushed to the scene, said investigators were trying to determine “what may have transpired. We don’t know at this time.”

Laura Foscolo, station manager at Shelter Aviation, which services aircraft at the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, said the flight left this morning at 9:10, after just about 15 minutes on the ground.

Easton Fire Chief Thomas Stone said that a last-minute maneuver by the pilot may have avoided casualties in the shopping complex, where the burned wings stretched across three parking spaces.

“One hundred feet in either direction and he could have hit some cars,” Stone said.

Easton Deputy Police Chief Allen Krajick said that he saw the plane flying low under the clouds when it appeared to “stall or spin.” Other witnesses have told investigators that the aircraft appeared to be having trouble staying aloft before it nose-dived into the parking lot of the shopping complex, which also includes a Target and a TJ Maxx.

“We’re very fortunate no one else was hurt,” Krajick said.

Angel Flight issued a statement saying the organization was “deeply saddened” by the crash and that “our sympathies go out to the families of those involved.”

“We have flown over 53,000 children and adults and flown over 30,000 flights to medical treatment,” said Camerlin, the spokeswoman for Angel Flight. “Flying over 7 million miles in our 12 years of existence and we have never before had an injury or fatality.”

West Coast 911 Firefighting News Source – The Boston Globe

Chicago PD officers prevent tragedy at 3 Alarm structure fire

Two alert Chicago police officers prevented a tragedy early Monday when they spied smoke and flames in the Pilsen neighborhood and helped dozens of residents vacate three buildings that eventually were consumed by fire, officials said.

Five people were sent to hospitals with smoke inhalation. None of the injuries was thought to be life-threatening.

A firefighter was treated at a hospital and released after slipping and falling at the blaze, fire officials said.

But officials said it could have been far worse.

They risk[ed] their own lives to save them,” said Monroe District Lt. Deborah Izzo, referring to Officers Laura Agin and Michael Daliege, who saw the fire in the 1500 block of West 18th Street shortly before 1:40 a.m. and immediately ran into one of the buildings and began rousing residents.

Agin and Daliege, who were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation, described the scene as “scary” and described their own life-saving actions as “automatic.”

Other Chicago police officers arrived soon afterward to assist in the evacuations. Two other nearby buildings were evacuated but did not catch fire, officials said.

Fire Commissioner John Brooks said about 30 residents in the three burning buildings at 1504, 1508 and 1510 W. 18th were displaced. Representatives of the city’s Department of Human Services and American Red Cross of Greater Chicago were on hand to help them find temporary housing.

Scores of firefighters attacked the rapidly spreading fire, which quickly was elevated to three-alarm status. The fire was brought under control shortly before 4 a.m., but firefighters remained on the scene as of 7:15 a.m. putting water on small flames. A Fire Department spokesman said the roof of one of the burning buildings collapsed.

Brooks said working smoke detectors were heard blaring in at least one of the buildings.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation. The burning brick buildings ranged in size from 2½ to 3 stories.

West Coast 911 Firefighting News Source – Chicago Tribune

Woman killed in Baltimore fire

A 33-year-old West Baltimore woman was killed in an early-morning fire yesterday that engulfed a two-story home, while two children escaped by jumping two floors into the arms of a man.

City firefighters were alerted to the one-alarm fire in the 1900 block of Fulton Ave. at 5:06 a.m.

Lakesha Lynch was pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Witnesses told firefighters that an unknown man urged an 8-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy to jump from a second-story window. The children were not injured, but the man suffered minor cuts and bruises to his face and was taken to an area hospital.

Dolly Bowens, 59, who lives next door, said she woke up after hearing children screaming and then smelled smoke. “There were people hollering outside, telling the children to jump,” said Bowens.

“It was bad,” she said of the fire. “We thought it was going to come over here.”

Bowens said Lynch and her children had lived in the house for about five or six years and that she has a third son who is attending school in South Carolina.

“I’m glad the kids made it out, but I’m still sad about her – that she didn’t make it,” said Bowens.

West Coast 911 Firefighting News Source – The Baltimore Sun

Iowa Factory Burns to Ground

Authorities evacuated residents and rerouted motorists several miles north and east of Reinbeck due to concerns about potentially harmful airborne chemicals, Penning said today.

Eight fire departments responded to the Friday night fire at the Delta Industries Building at 117 E. Kenwood St. in Reinbeck. The Northeast Iowa Response Group was also present due to hazardous materials at the scene.

Those testing the air for dangerous components Friday and today had yet to report any concerns, said Waterloo Fire Capt. Dave Haugen.

The building, home to a maker of archery targets, was unoccupied when the fire was reported about 8 p.m. It was a total loss, said Reinbeck Fire Chief Dan Mohlis. There were no injuries.

Cedar Falls, Dike, Stout, Hudson, Grundy Center, Reinbeck, Traer and Beaman firefighters responded.

“Initial crews could not get to the fire. It was just too hot,” Strickfort said. “There were a number of crews that tried to get water in there.”

The blaze swept through the McKenzie production area and was headed for the Delta production area — both of which contain target production lines — and was near the company warehouse, said Heather Kline, a company controller who was on the scene.

A “whole big book of chemicals” was in the McKenzie production area, Kline said. Among the chemicals were paint and liquid foam, she said.

The warehouse held 2,300-pound plastic totes containing liquid foam, pallets of carboard boxes and a range of other items, Kline said.

“All our raw materials are in there, from the boxes that we package the finished goods in, all the foam, 55-gallon drums of paint, a flammable chemical called MEK,” Kline said.

Kline said the company’s oldest building likely was a total loss.

“The front face of the original building is still up, but everything else is gone,” she said.

25 Small Blazes in Idaho Due to Lightning

Fire danger is high in the Boise and Payette national forests, and visitors should check where fires are before heading out.

Fire managers sent small teams of three and four firefighters to 25 new fires Friday morning as numerous lightning strikes ignited dry grass and timber from Idaho City to Atlanta.

The number of fires reported from overnight thunderstorms grew to 25 in the Boise National Forest on Friday.

Lightning late Thursday night and Friday ignited 11 new fires on the Payette National Forest, all less than an acre in size, officials said.

But fire experts said it could be worse.

This time last year, nearly 200,000 acres of Boise National Forest were in flames. As of Aug. 1 this year, just 24 acres had burned. And most of the fires ignited by the most recent storm were less than an acre.

Both ground vegetation and trees have higher moisture content this year, and that has helped push the fire season later, Olsen said.

He also said rain from passing storms has kept fires small enough to give crews time to get to the scene.

The most recent fires were scattered across the Idaho City and Mountain Home ranger districts. Firefighters were on the scene of one fire near Atlanta Thursday night.

Olson said fires are staffed based on their threat to people and property, but at least three of the new fires were in remote locations where fire managers are considering allowing them to burn to help maintain forest health.

But hikers, fishermen and other adventure seekers should be cautious this month.

“August is a critical fire month, and the forest has 40 percent of its fires in that month,” Olson said. “The public is encouraged to be careful with campfires and other flammable material during this high fire-frequency month.”

Backcountry travelers are advised to check in with local ranger districts for updated fire status and conditions.

West Coast 911 Firefighting News Source – Idaho Statesman

New York Union Hall Burns to Ground

A Kenmore Avenue union hall burned to the ground early this morning after lightning was spotted in the area.

The home of the International Association of Machinists at 1289 Kenmore Avenue was declared a total loss.

Firefighters from Kenmore, the Town of Tonawanda and Buffalo fought the blaze, which began around 3:30 a.m., for five hours, said Kenmore Fire Chief Tony Gorney.

Buffalo firefighters were responding to a lightning strike across the street on Kenmore Avenue when the fire at the union hall erupted.

They battled the flames and called Kenmore firefighters, Gorney said.

Firefighters from Sheridan Park, Kenilworth and Ellwood departments also responded, at least 50 firefighters in all.

The masonry union hall was a former men’s lodge built in 1914. Damages were estimated at $500,000.

An emergency demolition crew was scheduled to take down the rest of the structure sometime today.

The cause of the fire was unknown and, due to the extent of the damage, might not be determined.

Lightning was a possibility, Gorney said.

“We did have a lightning strike across the street, and with the storm there was plenty of lightning in the area,” he said.

Kenmore firefighters on Thursday evening also responded to a house struck by lightning on Winchester Place.

The lightning blew out several electrical circuits and caused the home to fill with smoke, Gorney said.

West Coast 911 Firefighter News Source – The Buffalo News

Another Arson Fire in Lancaster S.C.

Local, state and federal law enforcement officials are investigating what appears to be another arson case involving a judicial building in Lancaster, S.C.

A fire early this morning heavily damaged the Solicitor’s office, across the street from the 180-year-old county courthouse that was torched by an arsonist Monday.

The office of Solicitor Doug Barfield and offices of several other lawyers were gutted, according to some fire investigators.

Agents from the State Bureau of Investigation and the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency are joining local investigators in trying to determine a cause.

The fire was reported by a passerby at 4:18 a.m. Nunnery said firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes and had the blaze extinguished in 20 minutes. But the damage had been done.

In South Carolina, the solicitor serves as district attorney. The office is at the corner of West Dunlap and Catawba streets, a short distance from the courthouse.

Police told WCNC that they have patrolled the area regularly since Monday’s courthouse fire, and that a patrol car was in the area only 15 minutes before the blaze broke out this morning.

The courthouse, built in 1828, was heavily damaged by a blaze that authorities say was set. The fire destroyed most of the building’s roof and part of the second story. However, county officials said that the damage can be repaired, and that a number of historical records on the bottom floor of the building were saved.

West Coast 911 firefighter news source – The Charlotte Observer

Salisbury Fire Department cited in North Carolina mill blaze

Salisbury Fire Department supervisors allowed Justin Monroe to exit and re-enter a burning building alone, a violation of state rules that may have contributed to the firefighter’s death March 7, a state regulator told the Observer on Wednesday.

Justin Monroe
Justin Monroe

The N.C. Department of Labor cited the department Wednesday for three “serious” violations of state regulations during the blaze at Salisbury Millwork. Firefighters Monroe, 19, and Victor Isler, 40, died in the fire after it spread from an office to a warehouse they were trying to protect.”

Despite the violations, Paul Sullivan, a compliance district supervisor with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, praised the department for its handling of the fire.

“They did much more right than wrong,” he said.

The citations, which resulted in a $6,563 fine, included a finding that on four occasions, the fire department did not ensure that firefighters remained in “visual and voice contact” when entering conditions that investigators described as “Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health.”

Two of those occasions involved Monroe, Sullivan said.

Inspectors found that in the minutes before the fire spread, Monroe was sent out of the warehouse to inform command personnel that his team, whose radios were not working, were otherwise doing OK. Monroe traveled alone about 75 feet to the exit, without being in visual or voice contact with another firefighter – a violation of state rules.

Monroe then re-entered the building alone to rejoin his team.

Sullivan said Wednesday that “multiple people were aware” that Monroe exited and re-entered the building by himself. “Ultimately, our regulations fall upon the employer to ensure the people stay in pairs,” Sullivan said.

He added: “It may have played a part in his death. We’re not saying it was the cause.”

Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell did not return messages from the Observer late Wednesday.

The fire department also was cited for not making sure respirators used by firefighters fit properly. An additional violation involved firefighters entering the building at the beginning of the fire before establishing that at least two firefighters were outside monitoring conditions.

In a letter accompanying the Salisbury citations, Sullivan praised the department for its safety program, as well as for procedures followed at the fire. “They did a very good job with their incident command structure,” Sullivan told the Observer. “With a lot of fires, it will be a mess, and in this fire, it was not.”

Regulators, however, are recommending that Salisbury re-train all firefighters on survival skills, including the use of a “mayday” call at the first sign of life-threatening danger. Also, the department was urged to investigate and take action on radio problems during the fire. “There were several radio issues,” Sullivan said. “They attempted to call for maydays, and people didn’t hear them.”

The Locke Township Fire Department, which had firefighters injured in the blaze, was also fined $700 for firefighters using respirators without proper testing for fit or medical clearance.

West Coast 911 firefighting news source – Charlotte Observer