Fire Hits Top 3 Floors Of Vacant Hotel Annex
Photo by Rob Cross, Orlando Fire Department
Fire that raged through the upper three floors of a vacant, five-story hotel annex was the worst in downtown Orlando in 14 years.
Engine 1 responded at 5:17 a.m. last January 2 to investigate a report of smoke at Central Boulevard and North Orange Avenue. When the company saw heavy smoke coming from the roof of the Grand Central Hotel’s annex at 32 North Orange Avenue, a radio request was made to fill out the box. Engine 51, Rescue 1, Tower 1 and District 1 commander, a captain, were then dispatched. Upon arrival at the scene, District 1 called for Tower 2 (another elevating platform) and Engine 2.
It took 100 fire fighters with 13 pieces of apparatus to place the fire under control, and the last company left the fireground 14 ½ hours after the initial alarm. The eight stores on the first floor of the annex, which were all occupied, were seriously damaged by smoke and water.
The crews of Engines 1 and 51 and Rescue 1 immediately began a roomby-room search of the adjoining eightstory Grand Central Hotel, awakening and evacuating some 70 occupants. One fire fighter was overcome by smoke and taken to a hospital.
The annex owner had cut large holes into the floors for structural tests, so the fire department had advised all companies that a fire in this building would be fought in a defensive mode.
Towers 1 and 2 took positions at the northeast and southeast corners of the building, respectively. Tower 1 laid a 5-inch supply line. Tower 2 was supplied by two 3-inch lines from a hydrant at North Orange and Central.
Standpipe system charged
Engine 1 laid two 2 ⅛ -inch lines into the hotel standpipe system. Engine 2 laid one 4-inch line into a manifold where two 3-inch lines were connected from the manifold to the sprinkler system. The sprinkler valve was closed and it had to be opened by fire fighters. Engine 2 also supplied a deluge gun on the northwest corner of the second-floor roof of the annex.
Engine 4 was called from the northeast section of the city and the crew manned lines off the hotel standpipe. Tower 11, which arrived from the southeast section, set up at the rear of the annex and applied water supplied by two 3-inch lines from Engine 2.
Reserve Ladder 10 set up on the south side of the fire building and Engine 7 supplied its ladder pipe with two 2 ½inch lines.
Engine 7 laid two 2 ⅛-inch lines to a deluge gun on the second-floor roof west of the fire building to cover the southwest portion of the annex. Two lines were laid into the standpipe system of a North Orange Street 10-story office building opposite the annex and two 2 ½ -inch lines were connected from the roof manifold to a deluge gun, which poured water onto the fire.
Command post established
A command post was established at North Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard with Chief Gene Reynolds in command.
While operating on the fire at the rear of the building, Tower 11 had to be repositioned when its right front tire began to sink through a concrete driveway over an abandoned sewer line.
It began to rain about noon, shortly before the fire was put under control, but the rain had no effect on the fire.
Spot fires extinguished
Once the fire had been knocked down in the early afternoon, overhaul began. Engine and tower crews were kept busy throughout the rest of the day extinguishing spot fires.
Store owners, some of whom had been on the scene since early in the fire, were allowed to inspect their ground-floor shops.
Engine 5 responded to the scene in the early afternoon to help with overhaul, and Engines 2 and 4 picked up and returned to service. The last company left the fireground at 7:55 a.m.
The fire cause was determined to be arson and the nonoperating sprinkler system and several containers of flammable liquid found inside the building were described as contributing factors to the fire spread.
This report was written with the assistance of the Orlando Fire Department,especially Assistant Chief M K Kelly.