Editor’s note

America watched with horror the events of January 17, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. The earthquake that occurred that day-it soon after would be known as the Northridge Earthquake-brought a city to its knees and caused incalculable human suffering.

The firefighters of Los Angeles, shaken from quarters, were faced with a seemingly impossible task. But throughout this cruel test of spirit, the firefighters responded with courage and excellence.

In this special issue. Fire Engineering presents a comprehensive report and analysis of fire department response to the Northridge Earthquake. It provides insight into organizational preparedness and management for large-scale disasters; focuses on major events that tested members’ training, experience, and expertise; details the performances of specific types of structures in the earthquake; and describes fire protection systems challenges.

Our coverage includes several of the most significant emergency events that required fire department response; remember, however, that well more than 1,000 fire department personnel operated at literally hundreds of emergency incidents in just the first few hours after the quake. In many, many of these incidents-far more than could ever be covered in the pages of a magazine-life and death hung in the balance. Note also that the quake hit many areas hard. In the city of Santa Monica, for example, the shock left 200 buildings damaged, 83 of those uninhabitable.

We dedicate this issue to the firefighters who responded to the Northridge Earthquake. The disaster-like Hurricane Andrew, the Midwest floods, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and numerous worldwide catastrophes in recent times-is a reminder to firefighters to learn well from the past and be well-prepared and trained for the future. It is a future, unfortunately, that promises its share of disasters.

Fire Engineering thanks Chief Engineer and General Manager Donald O. Manning of the City of Los Angeles Eire Department and the many people who helped make this special issue possible.

A final thought: The potential for a “big one” exists in many areas of the United States, including its midsection. The New Madrid Fault extends north-south for about 120 miles through Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. It is an active fault. Consider this passage from “Preparing for the Big One in the Central U.S.” by Alan Scott in FQE International Review:

“Over a two-month period during the winter of 1811-1812, the New Madrid Fault Zone produced three of the most intense earthquakes ever to occur in North America. All are estimated to have been of magnitude 8.0 or greater. The largest of the earthquakes released several times more energy than did the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. It felled tens of thousands of acres of timber, reversed the flow of the Mississippi River for several hours, and permanently changed the face of the Missouri ‘boot heel’…. ”

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