Field Comm Gets a Workout - 2/26/99
It was a bad day for commercial establishments today, Friday, 2/26/99, as 3 greater alarm fires in 3 boroughs kept our Field Comm unit hopping for much of the day.
Unbeknownst to the fire fighters at first, the basement fire was fed by a broken gas line. Very quickly fire spread to the second floor and cockloft, then outward to all five stores.
An interior attack using 2 hand lines to each floor was abandoned as the gas fueled inferno below refused to yield. Also, the second floor was beginning to show signs of questionable stability; the floor was concrete supported by wood.
Ultimately, 2 tower ladders, 2 stangs, and 4 handlines from the exterior were used to bring the Devil to his knees 3 hours and 19 minutes later. This fire played havoc with morning rush hour commuters; the fire building is located underneath the elevated IRT #2 and #5 lines. All power to the elevated railway was shut off for 2 hours.
The first phone call at 0904 hours reported a fire on the top floor. That prognosis was confirmed 3 minutes later and a second alarm was transmitted 6 minutes after that.
Despite the tremendous amount of water used (4 tower ladders & 1 master stream) the fire burned freely for about 2 hours. It consumed the entire top floor and before long irreversibly damaged the building. The Department of Buildings issued a vacate order to the owners of the chinese food importers. Finally, after 4 hours, the fire went under control at 1305 hours.
The 2 story 200 x 200 building at 1983 Richmond Terrace is located in the Port Richmond section. The scene of past greater alarm fires, the first due units were familiar with the building. Ladder 79, however, was about to get a quick reminder about how conditions change rapidly.
Since the building was vacant an exterior attack was used. Ladder 79 was set up on the Heberton Avenue side of the building when with little to no notice the wall collapsed in front of them. On the way down, the wall took down 2 Consolidated Edison power lines and draped them over 79's rig.
With the rig energized the 2 fire fighters in the bucket were stranded. (They were uninjured.) While frantic calls to Con Ed were being made the fire loomed on in front of them. A third alarm was transmitted 15 minutes later. Eventually it took 5 tower ladders and 3 multiversals to quell the Red Devil.
Numerous relocations had to be made as Staten Island quickly depleted it's own resources. Brooklyn and Manhattan units were sent to fill the vacant firehouses. Brooklyn, already stretched for companies due to their second alarm, sent units that are usually relocated "into" like E290 in East New York, and L123 in Crown Heights.
Field Comm made it back to quarters at 1800 hours. They'll sleep good tonight.