Use All Available Sources of Water Supplies
Where Shortage at Fire Is Threatened, Look Around to See That Every Source of Supply Is Being Utilized—Suggested Method of Handling Fire
IN several of the reports of fires appearing in this department the failure of the fire department to employ all the available sources of water supply when a shortage has been encountered at the fire has been conspicuous.
Apparently in the excitement incidental to a fast spreading fire of large proportions, the officer in command has not taken the time nor trouble to make sure that he is utilizing all the water which is within his reach.
In the fire described in the last issue of this journal, this was noticeably the case.
Description of the Fire
The fire as described in the last issue occurred in a lime and lumber plant in a small city in the midwest.
The location of the various units of the plant are shown in the sketch herewith. (Fig. 1).
The fire started about 10 a.m. in the morning and was discovered soon after by employees of the plant who endeavored to extinguish it without calling on the city department. It was 11:30 before the first alarm was received by the city department.
The department consists of five engine companies each equipped with a triple combination pumper; two ladder companies each having city service trucks; two hose companies equipped with motor propelled, combination chemical and hose wagons.
The response in the department of the city in which the fire occurred is as follows:
First alarm, Engine Companies Nos. 1 and 2; Hose Co. No. 1; Ladder Co. No. 1.
Second alarm, Engine Companies Nos. 3 and 4; Ladder Co. No. 2.
Third alarm, Engine Co. No. 5 and Hose Co. No. 2.
In answer to the box alarm from the plant Engine Companies Nos. 1 and 2, Hose Co. No. 1 and Ladder Co. No. 1 responded.
Upon the arrival of the department the compressor (indicated by the figure “2” in the sketch) was fully ablaze and the barn was burning merrily on the second floor. Apparently the fire jumped from the compressor building to the barn and involved it.
A strong wind was blowing from the south carrying the fire from the barn toward the lumber pile.
Upon the department arriving, Engine Co. No. 1 was placed at Hydrant No. 2 and two lines were stretched, one to cover the barn and the other to cover the building shown to the left of it (namely, the compressor building).
The compressor building was rapidly becoming involved and it was hoped that this building might be saved as well as part of the barn.
The wind carrying the sparks toward the lumber piles made it necessary to utilize one of these streams to help cover the lumber pile.
Engine Co. No. 2 was placed at Hydrant No. 6 and a single line stretched to the barn, the fire in which building was increasing in intensity.
When the second engine was put in operation a very distinct drop in pressure was noted at the other engine indicating that the 8-inch main supplying the hydrant could not be depended upon to carry any further lines.
Although the low pressure was observed, it was attempted to use a hydrant line from Hydrant No. S but the pressure was so poor that a satisfactory stream could not be secured so that this line was discontinued.
The fire continued to spread despite the efforts of the fire department and it was soon necessary to transmit a second alarm.
This alarm brought out Engine Companies 3 and 4 and Ladder Co. No. 2.
The engines were not put in operation due to the lack of water supply. Finally Engine Co. No. 3 was placed at Hydrant No. 3 and an attempt was made to operate a single line onto the second lumber pile, which was now becoming endangered by the increasing fire in the larger pile.
This stream was very unsatisfactory.
In the meantime the fire continued to spread until it had involved not only the large lumber pile and a part of the small lumber pile to the right, but also a row of nine dwellings, seven of which were completely destroyed.
The department finally held the fire in the second lumber pile, but the loss included the compressor building, large barn, the large lumber pile, seven dwellings and two others partly burned as well as part of the small lumber pile.
Suggested Method of Handling the Fire
The operation of the department up to the time the second alarm apparatus was coming in cannot be criticized.
The placement of lines was satisfactory and had the department made use of the apparatus rolling in on the second alarm, placing it where water could be secured, it is very likely that the fire would have been checked before it had made much headway in the large lumber pile. Furthermore, it should have been held from spreading to the frame dwellings.
The point overlooked by the fire department was the presence of a stream of water which was not only accessible but would have afforded a very satisfactory supply for both of the engines on the second alarm.
The bridge is but ten feet above water and the water is six feet deep so that suction could be had without trouble.
The assignment of the first lines will remain as given by the officer in charge of the fire.
The placement of the apparatus on the second alarm will be as follows: Engine Cos. Nos. 3 and 4 on bridge across Spring Creek. Each of these engines to take suction from the creek.
With the assistance of members from the ladder companies on first and second alarm and hose company on first alarm, tw« lines should be stretched from each of these two engine companies on the bridge as follows: Engine Co. No. 3, two lines to be stretched to large lumber piles to cover exposure at this point.
Engine Co. No. 4, two lines to be stretched, one to operate on barn and other to assist in covering exposures of large lumber pile, and, if necessary, the frame buildings across the public road from the lumber yard.
If there is any doubt whatever as to the ability of these four additional lines to hold the fire, no delay should be permitted but a third alarm transmitted at once.
It is very likely, however, that the three lines on the first alarm and four lines on the second alarm can handle the fire very easily.
One of the conditions at this fire which was not fully covered in the description of the original fire was the method of piling the lumber.
The lumber was pileil to great heights, permitting a smooth face on one end of each pile but a ragged face on the other.
This is shown in Fig. 2 herewith, which, while not a photograph of this particular fire, shows the piling of lumber very well and incidentally illustrates the difficulties which are encountered by fire departments when operating on such a fire.
Once fire gets a hold it is very difficult to put it out. For killing the fire in a pile of this sort streams at close range, and small calibre, are usually more effective than a fewer number of heavy streams.
However, if fire gets burning rapidly then the best that can be? done is to employ large streams first to deaden the main body of the fire and then finish up the fire with streams of small calibre.
Note particularly the ragged division where the rear end of piles meet. It can be appreciated that when fire enters such an opening it is almost impossible to quickly extinguish it.