Hotel Fire Might Have Been Held
Failure to Employ Fire-Door Openings Probably Responsible for Complete Destruction of Building
THE fire described in the last issue of this journal occurred in a four-story brick and joist hotel building. This building, when originally constructed was divided into two separate buildings by a twelve-inch division wall of brick.
One section (A) shown in the sketch herewith was formerly a department store and the other section (B) a hotel.
Subsequently section A was taken over as part of the hotel building and the division wall between sections A and B opened up and fire doors were placed in the hall on each floor. Location of stairways and elevators are shown in the sketch. Both were open from the ground floor to the top floor, the elevator shaft being enclosed only with open grill work.
The sketch herewith shows the floor plan of the second and upper floors. On the ground floor of section A were a restaurant, kitchen and lounge room, the kitchen being situated directly behind the elevator and stair shafts.
The restaurant was located along Paul Avenue and the lounge room on the Smith Street side next to the fire wall. Dimensions of the building are shown on the sketch.
The fire started around 5 A. M. in the kitchen, through a cauldron of fat overflowing and taking fire.
At the time this occurred there were a great number of grocery boxes, filled and partly filled, in the kitchen. Upon the grease taking fire, fire spread to the metal canopy over the range which was coated with grease and the employees became panic stricken and rushed out leaving the door leading to the dining room and stair hallway open.
The employees in the kitchen (two in number at the time the fire occurred) hurried to the office and notified the night clerk of the fire. The night clerk made an investigation and found that the flames were sweeping out into the stair hallway and also into the dining room.
The night clerk aided by porters and the kitchen employees attempted to put the fire out with hand extinguishers which were available. No apparent progress was made, but on the contrary the fire gained greater proportions in the kitchen and it was eventually decided to call the department.
During the time the employees were endeavoring to put the fire out, it went up the stairwell igniting the carpets and woodwork around the stairs. This was not discovered until subsequently and at which time the hotel fire alarm was sounded.
The porters had foresight enough to get the occupants of section A into B and to close the fire doors after them. This resulted in the saving of all lives—not one being lost. It also did a great deal toward checking the fire until the department arrived.
In response to the telephone call a first alarm assignment was sent.
Response of Apparatus
For an outline of the make-up of the department the reader is referred to the February 23rd issue of this journal. Response to first alarm consists of Engine Companies Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and Truck Co. No. 1.
Second alarm brings out in addition to the above. Engine Companies Nos. 4 and 5, and Truck Co. No. 2.
A third alarm brings out Engine Companies Nos. 7, 8, and 9, and Truck Co. No. 3: while a general alarm brings in addition, Engine Cos. Nos. 10, 11, and 12, and Truck Co. No. 4.
Suggested Method of Handling the Fire
No criticism can be offered regarding the assignment of the first alarm apparatus. It was as follows:
Engine Co. No. 1 was placed at hydrant No. 1 and a single line stretched on the ground floor to the kitchen. This line operated on the fire in the kitchen where it was coming into the stair hallway and dining room.
Engine Co. No. 2 was placed at hydrant No. 6 and a single line stretched to the stairway to assist the line already in operation at that point.
Engine Co. No. 3 was placed at hydrant No. 4 and a single line stretched in and up stairway while the line from Engine No. 2 covered this latter line.
Then a second line was stretched from Engine Co. No. 1 up ladder to second floor.
Engine Co. No. 2 also stretched in a second line to the second floor. Both of these lines met with considerable difficulty in getting to the fire for the rooms between the hall on the second floor and the street front of the building were charged with smoke and heat.
The lines had to pass through this before they could get to a point where they could direct the streams on the fire.
These lines apparently were able to get the fire pretty well in hand on the second floor, but in the meantime the fire had gone to the upper floors and was making fast work in spreading throughout the second floor of section A.
Members of the truck company were sent up to the various floors of section B to make sure that the fire doors were closed and also to see that fire was not spreading through these different floors.
Materials in contact with the division wall were moved back on each floor so that it was felt that there would be little likelihood of fire passing the wall.
Call Help Promptly
It would have been better for the commanding officer, upon noting the extent of the fire when he responded with the first alarm, to immediately transmit a second and a third alarm, or second, third and general alarms depending upon the stage of the fire.
As it was, only a second alarm was transmitted which ultimately meant a delay resulting in unnecessary spread of the blaze.
Assignment of apparatus on second alarm should have been: as follows: Engine Co. No. 4 at hydrant No. 7 and a single line stretched by way of stairway to third floor. This line to operate through fire door onto fire.
Here is a mistake made by the department in operating at the fire—not utilizing these doorways. It may have been necessary to take punishment, but proper venting on the floor and the prompt use of the lines through these doorways would have checked the fire at the point where it was gaining greatest headway—in the hallway surrounding the stairway and elevator shafts.
Members of truck company to assist this first line in providing ventilation by opening doors to rooms and windows to street.
Engine Co. No. 5 at hydrant No. 5, and a single line stretched to the fourth floor of section B of the building and to operate through fire door into fire in the hallway on this floor.
Engine 6 at hydrant No. 9 and a single line stretched to the third floor of section A by way of ladders on Smith Street.
If roof venting has not already been done by Truck Co. No. 1, responding to the first alarm, this should be taken care of immediately upon the arrival of Truck 2 on the second alarm. Send men to the roof to open up over stairwall and elevator shafts. This is most essential to keep the fire from spreading to the rooms around the hallways on the third and fourth floors.
Transmission of Additional Alarm
As noted above, the officer transmitting the second alarm should not have stopped there but should have transmitted also a second and third alarm. It the third alarm had not been sent in on the arrival of the ranking officer—responding on the second alarm—a third alarm should be transmitted at once.
Assignment of apparatus on third alarm is suggested as follows:
Engine 7 at hydrant No. 3, stretching a single line by way of ladder to the fourth floor of section A on the Paul Avenue side. This line to operate into hallway within building if possible. It will be necessary to first kill the fire in the room but this will not take long if ventilation is provided.
This line from Engine No. 7 should work toward the rear of the building rather than toward the front for the line from Engine Co. No. 5 is already covering the fourth floor hallway in the center of the building.
Engine Co. No. 8 to be stationed at hydrant 10 and a single line stretched by way of ladder to fourth floor of section A on the Smith Street side.
The assignment of Engine 9 will depend upon the tendency of the fire, it being remembered that a continual patrol must be employed to note possible extensions of the blaze.
Utilizing the fire door openings and providing proper ventilation, will do most toward keeping the fire under control. The streams directed in the hallway catch the fire at a point where it is burning with greatest intensity. If the body of the fire is killed at this point the rest is not a difficult proposition.
Thorough overhauling after this fire is extinguished would be most essential for in view of the type of construction employed in running the beams adjacent in the fire wall, there is always a possibility of fire getting through unnoticed and rekindling either in section A or extending to section B.
It is believed the above assignment of apparatus would have made possible the control of the fire with three alarms and with a comparatively moderate loss.