Master Streams Hit 6 1/2-Story Apartment House Fire
Ladder pipes, deluge sets take over from hand lines as Great Neck, L. I., blaze ranges from cellar to roof
A fire that went from the cellar to the roof of a vacant, 6 1/2-story apartment house before it was discovered gave the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department in Great Neck, Long Island, N. Y., an 11-hour battle that was won with ladder pipes and deluge sets.
When First Deputy Chief John Idol responded to an alarm at the Towers Apartments at 4 Spruce Street at 4:34 a.m. last November 28, he took one look and radioed for a general alarm. This added Companies 1 and 5 to Companies 2, 3 and 4, which had already responded.
The Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department is a volunteer organization on the populous north shore of Long Island, adjacent to the eastern boundary of New York City. Responsible for the fire protection of some 10 square miles with about 45,000 population, the M-LFD has 260 volunteers, two 85-foot aerial ladders, a city service ladder truck, four 750-gpm pumpers, three 1,000-gpm pumpers, one 1,500-gpm pumper, one high-pressure fog pumper, one 500-gpm pumper, a rescue-searchlight unit and an ambulance. All these units responded to the general alarm.
The entire top floor, cockloft and roof of the 200 X 125-foot common construction building were fully involved. Considerable volumes of fire were venting through the roof and a brisk breeze was carrying firebrands into the street and to nearby houses. There was no life hazard, since the last tenant had left to permit modernization of the structure.
Chief Russell Mallgren and Idol initiated an agressive attack of hand lines into the building while the ladder pipes of Ladders 22 and 43 were being positioned.
At the same time, these officers ordered a mutual aid alarm. This brought to the fireground a third 85-foot aerial ladder and two 1,000-gpm pumpers from the Alert Fire Company in nearby Great Neck Village. Completing the mutual aid plan, the Port Washington VFD relocated at the quarters of M-LFD Company 1, New Hyde Park Estates VFD moved to the quarters of M-LFD Company 5, and the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company stood by in quarters, ready to roll to M-LFD areas.
Third Deputy Chief Julius Grecio was assigned to cover exposures west of the fire building. Under his command, members of both the M-LFD and Alert companies—with the help of the Nassau County Police—evacuated residents and wet down roofs.
Meanwhile 2 1/2 and 1 1/2-inch hand lines were advanced up stairwells and fire escapes. Men operating a 2 1/2-inch line in the basement encountered severe fire and smoke. On the upper floors, lines were moved into position with only nominal difficulty. This situation indicated a massive vertical involvement from bottom to top, venting through the upper spaces. It appeared that this fire had made considerable headway before being detected.
At this point, Ladders 22 and 43 commenced ladder pipe operations onto the roof and upper floor. On the ground, deluge sets went into action front and rear and four hand lines provided a water curtain from the roof of 2 Spruce Street, separated from the burning building by a 12-foot alley. The Alert ladder pipe was held in reserve. Since four 600-gpm master streams were now concentrated on the blaze, Mallgren ordered interior hose crews to get out because the structural integrity of the building was unknown. Firemen handling the basement line pulled out in a shower of falling debris. The problem now was containment.
As a gray, drizzly day dawned, the master-stream attack darkened down large bodies of fire. However, the deep-seated vertical updrafts around the elevator and incinerator shafts were almost impossible to hit since a penthouse structure and peaked cornice prevented an over-and-down approach. Men operating ladder pipes at extreme extensions were exposed to serious smoke conditions. They gave directions to turntable operators by intercom since upper portions of ladders were obscured by smoke. A side-toside, up-and-down approach was established and firemen controlling the ladder pipes were relieved as necessary to avoid exhaustion. This grueling attack was continued with slow progress throughout the morning hours. Apparatus was frequently moved away from walls that might fall. Horizontal travel of the fire through the vented cockloft required moving the pipe streams with each wind shift while deluge sets maintained a steady flow from below.
Two companies released
At 10:38 a.m. the relocated Port Washington company was released, and by noon Chief Mallgren was able to return the Alert Company after seven hours of fire duty. The M-LFD maintenance department, under the direction of Superintendent Anthony Paradise, supplied 353 gallons of gasoline for refueling at the scene with an ultimate total of 649 gallons to return the companies to service. This organization also furnished more self-contained breathing apparatus, supplied dry turnout coats and made minor apparatus repairs.
The fire was declared under control at 1:00 p.m., and at 1:46 p.m. the New Hyde Park and Vigilant Companies were released from mutual aid. M-LFD Company 1 was back in service at 1:55 p.m.
From this point on, fire broke out sporadically in roof and cockloft areas but was hit immediately by weary firemen at ladder pipes. Hand lines were again moved into the interior to cautiously begin overhauling. Master streams were shut down and a portable power saw was used to cut floors to relieve them of the weight of water. Ceilings were pulled for hot spots, hidden spaces were ventilated and a complete interior washdown was accomplished. During these operations aerial ladders were positioned precisely at window level to provide an escape in working areas in case a stairway collapsed. While this was in progress, 8,400 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 7,100 feet of lK-inch hose was picked up and packed in hose beds.
With all visible fire now extinguished, Mallgren restored Company 2 to service at 3:35 p.m., Company 5 at 3:38 p.m. and Company 4 at 4:01 p.m. A hydrant-connected watch line into the structure was manned by Company 3 until later that night.
At 10:14 p.m. Company 3 was again turned out for a minor flareup at the scene. Shortly before midnight, it returned to quarters, completing the final operation at 4 Spruce.