Vigilance Might Have Saved One Plant
Fire in Machine Shop Shaft Should Have Been Detected Before It Gained Proportions—Suggested Method of Handling Fire
THE fire described in the last issue of this journal, in the series on administration, was fairly well handled, with one exception—failure to detect spread of fire in machine shop to the south of the main building.
As described in the article in the last issue, the city in which this fire occurred is located in the eastern section of the country, and has a population of around 65,000.
The fire department consists of four engine companies, two hose companies and two ladder companies.
The equipment of the engine companies is as follows: Engine Co. No. 1, 750 gallon triple combination carrying 1,000 feet of hose; Engine Co. No. 2, 450 gallon triple combination carrying 1,000 feet of hose; Engine Co. No. 3, 750 gallon triple combination carrying 1,200 feet of hose; Engine Co. No. 4, 750 gallon triple combination carrying 1,100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose.
Hose Co. No. 5 carries 1,200 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, as does also Hose Co. No. 6.
Ladder Co. No. 1 is equipped with an aerial ladder while Ladder Co. No. 2 has a city service truck.
The response to alarms is as follows: First alarm, Engine Cos. No. 1, 2 and 3 and Truck Co. No. 1; second alarm. Engine Co. No. 4, Hose Co. No. 5 and Truck Co. No. 2. Hose Co. No. 6 is left in service, and is brought out only by special call.
The water supply in this city is very satisfactory, there being plenty of good size mains throughout the commercial section and with a pressure of 75 pounds at the hydrant.
In the immediate neighborhood of the fire there were sufficient hydrants to take care of all of the engine and hose companies.
The layout of fire building and surrounding buildings is shown in the sketch herewith.
The fire originated in the paper box plant, a five story structure of about 10,000 square feet area. To the north of this plant was a three story printing plant, while to the south of it was a five story machine shop, engaged in manufacturing small tools.
Other buildings in the immediate vicinity of the fire are indicated in the sketch.
The fire building was occupied on the ground floor by packing and shipping operations. Second and third floors, were engaged in manufacturing paper containers, while the top two floors were largely employed for storage of paper stock.
The excess weight of the stock on the top floor probably had a great deal to do with the collapse of the building and resulting spread of fire.
The combination freight and passenger elevator and the stairway alongside were the only available means for employees of the factory to get to the street.
Fire escapes had been placed at the rear of the plant, but were subsequently removed to make room for a new fire tower which was to be built.
The fire occurred at lunch time when the 150 employees were in the lunch room on the third floor. The fire started in the basement and was discovered by a truck driver who was delivering goods to the plant. With the assistance of the two shipping clerks, who were assisting him in unloading, he attempted to extinguish the fire, but after working at it for a few minutes decided that it was beyond his control and thereupon went upstairs and ‘phoned the fire department. The fire department sent out a first alarm assignment consisting of engine companies Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and truck Co. No. 1.
Upon arrival of the department, it was found that the employees were all trapped above the fire, some having gone to the roof and the balance remaining in windows on the third floor. The elevator car was in the basement at the time, and it was impossible to get to it. The fire department devoted all efforts during the first ten minutes toward getting the employees out, and this they did by stretching in two lines from the first engine arriving to protect the stairway, while the employees were escorted to the street. By this time fire had risen in the elevator shaft, beside involving the basement, and had extended into the top floor.
Suggested Method of Handling the Fire
Up to and including the saving those imprisoned in the fire building, the operations of the department cannot be criticized.
The placement of subsequent lines was not bad, and had not the paper box plant wall collapsed it is likely that the fire would have been confined to the one building, for attention would probably have been given to the machine shop in a more thorough manner than it was when the 3 story printing shop was suddenly involved by fire.
The suggested method of handling this fire, subsequent to the saving of life, is as follows:
In the first place, the great area of the basement of the paper box plant, together with the contents, and the extent of the fire would justify the transmission of a second alarm without waiting until it was shown by the progress of the fire that the task required additional apparatus. This should have been done early in the operation.
The placement of engine No. 1 at hydrant No. 8 was satisfactory,” for it made possible the laying of two lines at Once to cover vertical passageways.
Engine Co. No. 2, stationed at hydrant 7, was a satisfactory placement also. This line should, however, have been sent to the top floor by way of stairway, as its safety would be assured by the presence of lines from engine Co. No. 1 at tine stairway. This line going to the top floor might have held the fire or extinguished it and made possible confining of subsequent efforts to the basement.
Place Engine No. 3 at hydrant No. 2 and stretch line to top floor by way of ladder This line working at the rear of the building (from the vacant lot) together with the line from Engine Co. No. 2 should have been able to hold the fire on the top floor.
Hose Co. No. 5, placed at hydrant No. 9, should stretch a single line to operate with cellar pipe through ground floor of paper box plant. This will help in killing the fire in the basement and holding it from extending until additional lines are in service.
The first company arriving on second alarm should station engine Co. No. 4 at hydrant No. 1, and stretch single line to the rear of the plant, to operate through the floor with a cellar pipe on the basement fire.
Assign hose Co. No. 5 to stretch in a second line from Engine Co. No. 4 to operate down rear stairway in basement. This same company, if manual strength permits, may stretch a second line from engine Co. No. 3 to operate down the front stairway into the basement. This gives four lines operating into the basement and two lines onto the top floor together with two lines on the main floor. In the event that fire gets away from this assignment, a second stand will have to be made to cover the plants to the north and south.
In this connection, a periodical survey of both of these buildings by members of truck company will prevent a happening such as was experienced at this fire when a second blaze was started at the bottom of the elevator shaft in the five story machine shop due to the dropping of embers down the shaft.
It is believed, however, that the above assignment of lines can handle the situation.