Small Fire, Much Work
Lack of manpower and equipment are credited with causing a long drawnout operation to extinguish a fire in a small building in Homestead, Florida— with loss of $11,500, when under normal conditions the blaze could have been extinguished with a booster line.
The involved building was formerly a 2-story structure of hollow tile and mill construction, covering an area 50-ft. by 50-ft. (2500 sq. ft.). The 1926 hurricane demolished the upper story and this was repeated again in 1929, after which the upper section was not reconstructed, but a roof about 30 in. above the upper floor was added. The upper flooring was tight-jointed 2-in. by 6-in. timber. Roof was 1-in. by 6-in. sheeting covered with tarpaper. This was supported by crisscrossed 2-in. by 6-in. and 1-in. by 6-in. studding and bracing 24-in. apart along 2-in. by 6-in. rafters.
The old stair landing had been made into a suspended storage rack located in the center next to the Kilgore building (indicated by darkened area on accompanying sketch. On this rack were stored lawnmowers, motors in cardboard boxes, etc. Tt was here the fire started, apparently due to spontaneous ignition of oil leaking into the cardboard. Being a warm day (temp. 80 deg. F.) with probably over 100 deg. F. inside the closed building, which was filled with combustible materials, the stage was set for a spontaneous fire.
Butane and Dynamite Caps Stored in Building
The building was used by a local hardware and building material firm. Beside the contents of tarpaper rools, cement, hardware etc., an additional hazard was contained in some 100 lb. butane containers and 30 cases of dynamite caps. Although the fire never came close to these materials, the risk was sufficient, to give fire fighters some concern. The close studding and bracing of the roof made fire extinguishing difficult as only one stream would cover one 24-in. spacing the width of the building; every spacing required a separate stream.
The fire was spotted and the alarm immediately transmitted by a local photographer and TV station reporter who, incidently, made news movies of operations which appeared on WTVJ in Miami at 6:45 P.M.
The first-due engine, was a small pumper with 300 gal. tank, wet water and two pre-connected l 1/2-in. lines. The crew made entrance using masks, with the l 1/2-in. lines and quickly extinguished the fire on the rack, but from below it was impossible to reach the seat of the fire in the roof area.
Mutual Aid in Effect
Fire Chief E. L. Sullivan sized up the problem facing his men—the highly flammable contents, and high value exposures—and ordered out the remaining engines, a 500 GPM and a 750 GPM pumpers and then invoked mutual aid, which brought a 500 GPM commercial unit from Florida City and two Dade County Fire patrol rural rigs.
These units were located as indicated on the diagram: (1) small pumper with supply line from hydrant across U. S. No. 1 Highway through the filling station doorway; (2) 500 GPM pumper, two 2 1/2-in. lines; (3) 750 GPM pumper, 2 1/2-in. line; (4) Florida City, one 2 1/2-in. line; (5) and (6) County trucks, one l 1/2-in. line.
Holes were cut in the flat roof in efforts to reach the fire but had to be abandoned when the roof began to give way. Then the building was laddered and the slow process of cutting holes through hollow tile walls between each row of studding was begun. By this process extinguishment was accomplished in one and one-half hours.