Published on July 1, 2012.

Firefighters sift through debris trying to determine the cause of a fatal house fire in North Carolina.
(Photo: AP/Wide World Photo)

NFPA Journal®, July/August 2012


Exterior fire spreads into house, killing occupant
NORTH CAROLINA — A 72-year-old man died in a fire that started on the rear porch of his single-family house and spread inside. 



May - June 2012
Cutting torch fire destroys mill

March - April 2012
Overloaded power strip starts fatal fire 

January - February 2012
Woman, two children die
in home fire

November - December 2011
Fire spreads from balcony into concealed spaces

September - October 2011
Kitchen fire damages restaurant 

July - August 2011
Gas explosion kills two

The single-story, wood-frame house, which was 70 feet (21 meters) long and 25 feet (8 meters) wide, had brick exterior walls and an asphalt-shingled roof. A battery-operated smoke alarm had been installed in the hallway, but it is not known whether it operated during the fire. There were no sprinklers.

Neighbors awakened by popping sounds discovered the fire and called the fire department at 3:38 a.m. Firefighters arriving four minutes later were told that the victim was probably still in the house, so the incident commander assigned a crew to enter the victim’s bedroom through a window. However, firefighters were unable to find him until interior crews advancing hose lines into the home discovered his body in a hallway, where he had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Investigators determined that the fire began on the porch, then spread through the rear door into the kitchen and dining room. Neighbors and the victim’s daughter all reported that the victim did a lot of outside burning.

The fire department’s response was complicated by hoarding conditions in the home and the presence of flammable and combustible liquids around the exterior of the building.

The house, which was valued $130,000, sustained estimated damages of $100,000, while its contents, which were valued at $70,000, sustained a $5,000 loss.

Extension cord blamed for fire that kills two
INDIANA — A 74-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman died in their home when a small-gauge electrical extension cord powering a window-mounted air conditioner overheated and ignited the living room’s combustible contents.

The one-story, single-family, wood-frame house, which was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 24 feet (7 meters) wide, had no sprinklers. Firefighters found the only smoke alarms in the house on a kitchen counter without working batteries.

A passerby discovered the fire and contacted 911 at 1:53 a.m. The responding firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze and found the bodies of the two victims, each of whom used a walker, in the living room and in the hallway that led to the bedrooms.
Investigators discovered that electrical extension cords had been used to power appliances throughout the house. They noted that the cord to the air conditioner had been covered with combustibles.

In addition, the victims were hoarders, and the house contained so much material that virtually the only way to get from room to room was to follow paths through the clutter. The family of the victims had tried repeatedly but without success to encourage the couple to clean the house or move to an assisted-living facility.

The fire report suggests that the hoarding played a role in the fire’s early growth, but that the couple’s disabilities were more important than the restricted egress paths in explaining their inability to rescue themselves.
The house, valued at $70,000, sustained an estimated $40,000 in damage. Its contents, valued at $30,000, sustained $15,000 in damage.

Hurricane damage results in fatal fire
CONNECTICUT — An 89-year-old woman died and her 91-year-old husband suffered smoke inhalation injuries in a fire that started when a hurricane tore the electrical service from their home, causing the electrical wiring to arc.

The two-story, single-family, wood-frame home was 30 feet (9 meters) long and 32 feet (10 meters) wide. There were smoke alarms in the kitchen and second-floor hallway, although neither had batteries or some other source of power. There were no sprinklers.

During the storm, winds pulled the electrical service line away from the house, causing arcing that ignited the exterior of the structure. The fire appeared to have burned for some time before a neighbor heard glass breaking and looked outside to see the house ablaze. The fire department received the 911 call at 5:30 a.m.

Both victims were fatally injured while trying to escape or while trying to locate a door to the outside. While extinguishing the blaze, a firefighter received an electrical shock when he touched a metal handrail outside the house, and another was shocked when he touched a metal ladder that had been placed against the house. The wires remained energized until the power company cut electrical service at the pole.

The house, valued at $160,000, was destroyed, and its contents, valued at $110,000, sustained a $90,000 loss.

Sprinkler extinguishes unattended cooking fire
GEORGIA — A man living in a 52-unit apartment building left a pan of grease heating on the stove when he went to the bathroom. When he returned, he discovered that the grease had ignited but that a single sprinkler had extinguished the fire.

The three-story, wood-frame apartment building, which was 192 feet (58 meters) long and 50 feet (15 meters) wide, had vinyl siding on the exterior walls and an asphalt-shingled roof. A fire alarm system providing full coverage was monitored by a central station alarm company, as was a full-coverage wet-pipe sprinkler system.

The fire department received the alarm at 6:56 p.m., and firefighters arrived in four minutes to find that the building had already been evacuated in response to the local alarm. Reports of fire on the third floor sent fire crews upstairs, where they found light to moderate smoke. When they entered the apartment of origin, they noted that a sprinkler had already put the fire out.

The report did not contain estimates of value or damage for the structure or its contents. There were no injuries.

Propane torch ignites roof fire on mixed-use building
CALIFORNIA — A fire started when a propane torch being used to apply a new roof surface ignited a wooden exterior wall and heavily damaged the structure.

The three-story, wood-frame, mixed-use building housed retail stores and apartments. It had balloon-frame construction and a flat, wooden roof covered with tar paper. There was no automatic fire detection or suppression equipment.

Workers noticed the fire and called 911 at 3 p.m. They then tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire with dry chemical extinguishers.

The building, valued at $1 million, and its contents, valued at $500,000, sustained losses estimated at $750,000 and $250,000, respectively. There were no injuries

Sprinklers control motel fire with exterior origin
MAINE — Two sprinklers prevented a fire that began in debris and rubbish piled in an alleyway between a motel and another building from spreading far into the motel. The burning rubbish also threatened LP-gas cylinders about 100 feet (30 meters) away.

The single-story motel was 250 feet (76 meters) long and 75 feet (23 meters) wide. A wet-pipe sprinkler system provided full protection. An occupant of the motel said she heard a fire alarm sounding as she exited, but no other information was reported on any alarm system.

Firefighters received a 911 call at 12:43 a.m. reporting a structure fire and arrived four-and-a-half minutes later to find a fire burning in the alleyway between the two buildings near a public parking lot. Trash and rubbish were stored in this area, and one building had a designated smoking area near the scene of the fire.

Firefighters advanced a hose line and knocked down the fire in 15 minutes. Before attacking the blaze, two firefighters heard a sprinkler operating in an access way for the motel basement. A second sprinkler in the basement was also found to have operated, confining the fire to an area near its entry point to the basement.

When the fire department report was written, the cause of the fire had not yet been determined and the fire was still under investigation.

The fire caused no injuries. Heat damaged the vinyl siding of the building adjacent to the motel, and fire damaged the basement and some contents, but property damage estimates were not reported.

Children playing with lighter start deadly fire
OREGON — A 3-year-old boy died in a fire that started when children playing with a lighter ignited some hay stored in a shed. The little boy ignored pleas from an adult to run through the flames that were blocking his exit and succumbed to smoke inhalation.
The wood-frame storage shed, which was 81 feet (25 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide, had a metal roof. There was no fire detection or suppression equipment.

Several children were playing with a lighter in the machinery section of the shed near an open stall when they ignited hay on the floor. The flames spread to a stack of hay bales. The rest of the children escaped without injury. The shed and its contents were destroyed, for a $27,000 loss.

Oily rags blamed for fatal fire that began in garage
CALIFORNIA — An 83-year-old woman died near an exit door in her burning home.

The single-story, wood-frame house, which was 55 feet (17 meters) long and 33 feet (10 meters) wide, had a composition roof and a detached wood-frame garage connected to it by a breezeway. The house had smoke alarms, but their location and performance were undetermined. There were no sprinklers.

The husband awoke to the sound of what he thought were firecrackers and went to investigate. He walked through the house, opening the door to the breezeway, and saw smoke coming from the garage. When he opened the door to the garage, he found the garage fully involved.

He yelled for his wife to call 911, and she handed him the phone. He reported the fire at 11:43 p.m., then left the house as the fire began to spread into it. When he didn’t see his wife outside, he went around the house to the locked front door and banged on it until she opened it. Yelling for her to leave, he turned and walked down the front stairs. When he looked back, he found that she was not behind him, but the smoke and fast-moving flames prevented him from going after her.

The house was fully involved when firefighters arrived nine minutes after the 911 call and spoke to the husband, who reported that his wife was still inside the house. Before they could go in after her, however, firefighters had to control the blaze. Eventually, they found her on the floor just inside a combination sewing room and computer room, dead of smoke inhalation and burns.

Investigators determined that the fire started when cotton rags used to stain a deck with an oil-based product were left exposed and spontaneously ignited.

The fire destroyed the house, valued at $250,000, and its contents, valued at $100,000. The wood stain manufacturer stated that any organic cotton containing the stain would spontaneously combust if not placed in a metal container filled with water and sealed.

Improperly stored combustibles ignite in motel fire
VIRGINIA — Although they used six of their eight fire extinguishers, motel employees were unable to put out a fire that began when heat from a gas-fired hot water heater ignited cardboard boxes full of recently delivered pillows, hair dryers, linens, and towels stored in a hotel laundry room.

The four-story, 257-room hotel, which also had three levels below grade, was of limited combustible construction and covered an area of approximately 200,000 square feet (18,600 square meters). It had an unmonitored, full-coverage fire detection system. There were no sprinklers.

Firefighters responded to an 8:33 p.m. call reporting a fire in the building and arrived two minutes later to find heavy smoke coming from the first-floor laundry room. The motel’s occupants had already responded to the fire alarm and evacuated the building. 
The building, worth more than $2 million, and its contents sustained approximately $45,000 in damage. There were no injuries.

Hoarding may have played a role in cooking fire death
TENNESSEE — A 73-year-old man died of smoke inhalation as a result of a fire that started in the kitchen of his single-family home. Evidence suggests that the occupant, who had an extensive medical history, attempted to extinguish the fire before collapsing in the living room, which was located next to the kitchen.

The one-story, wood-frame dwelling was 40 feet (12 meters) long and 35 feet (11 meters) wide. There were no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
Someone called 911 at 7:03 a.m. Responding firefighters entered the house through an unlocked door and found the fire in the kitchen. After searching the house several times, they discovered the man’s body in the living room, covered by a large amount of clutter. He was left in place for the medical examiner.

The victim appeared to have been cooking when the fire started, and heat or flames spread from the stove to the cabinets above it and eventually to the attic. Investigators found evidence that the man might have tried to move burning items to the sink to control the fire. Firefighters suspect he was trying to escape, but that he may have been delayed by objects he had hoarded or by his unsuccessful attempts to retrieve a pet.

The fire did an estimated $15,000 worth of damage to the house, which was valued at $152,000, and $7,600 damage to its contents, which were valued at $76,000.

Overloaded extension cord starts fatal fire
TEXAS — A 64-year-old woman died of smoke inhalation in her bedroom during a fire started by an overloaded cord and outlet in the living room of her single-family home.

The single-story, wood-frame house, which was 56 feet (17 meters) long and 26 feet (8 meters) wide, had brick veneer walls and a roof covered by asphalt shingles. The home was equipped with neither smoke alarms nor sprinklers.

The victim lived in the house with her two sons and a friend of one of the young men. The friend discovered the fire when he was awakened by a crackling sound. He woke up one of the sons, who found the window air conditioner in the living room ablaze, and the two tried to control the fire with a portable extinguisher without success. By this time, the victim had also awakened and alerted her other son, who opened his bedroom door, saw the smoke, and jumped out his bedroom window, cutting himself in the process. After reaching the outside, the other two men tried unsuccessfully to rescue the victim through her bedroom window.

The fire department received a 911 call at 7:03 a.m. and arrived six minutes later to find the entire home on fire. After they knocked down the heavy flames, they found the victim seated in her bedroom.

Investigators noted electrical extension cords and multi-plug devices throughout the house. The window air conditioner, where the men said they first saw the fire, was one of several appliances plugged into a 50-foot (15-meter) extension cord that was coiled in a circle under a recliner and a sofa. It appears there the cord overheated somewhere between the appliance and the multi-plug outlet extender, and the heat ignited the room’s combustibles.

The fire destroyed the house, valued at $42,900, and its contents, valued at $21,000. The only thing spared was a garage at one end of the house. The three men were treated on the scene.

Woman dies when candle ignites clothing
NEVADA—A 74-year-old woman died of smoke inhalation and burns after a candle apparently ignited her clothing when she used it to provide illumination while she changed a light bulb in a closet.

The single-story, single-family, wood-frame house, which covered approximately 1,600 square feet (150 square meters), had a smoke alarm in the hallway that operated as designed. There were no sprinklers.

A passerby who saw smoke coming from the attic vents called 911 at 6:15 p.m. Firefighters arriving six minutes later initially saw nothing from outside the house, but they heard a smoke alarm operating and smelled something burning. They forced open the front door, found light smoke, and began a primary search for occupants and the fire. When they entered a bedroom, they found the victim, who lived alone, in the closet. The fire was extinguished in less than a minute.

Damage to the house and its contents, valued at $225,000, was estimated at $5,000.

Unattended cooking starts deadly fire
SOUTH CAROLINA — A 22-year-old woman died of smoke inhalation in her single-family townhouse during a fire that began when she left French fries cooking in the kitchen and went to bed.

The two-story, wood-frame townhouse was one of eight in a row, and was 35 feet (11 meters) wide and 165 feet (50 meters) long, with its exterior walls covered with brick. Smoke alarms had been installed in the stairway between the first and second floors and on the landing at the top of the stairs. There were no sprinklers.

The fire department received a 911 call at 5:30 a.m. and arrived shortly afterward to find flames coming from three sides of the building, heavy smoke coming from the fourth side, and fire seeping from the peak of the roof. Crews extinguished the blaze using a hose stream and deployed a hose line to prevent the fire from spreading to other units. An additional hose line was deployed when it arrived.

Once they knocked the fire down, firefighters entered the townhouse and found the victim in a second-floor bedroom. They found another occupant at a neighboring home.

Investigators determined that the victim had arrived home early in the morning and started to cook French fries but left them unattended on the stove when she went to bed. The grease in the pan overheated and ignited, starting a fire that spread to other combustibles. Her roomate, who was asleep on a couch in the living room, awoke, possibly to the smoke alarm sounding, and escaped to a unit two doors down. She placed the 911 call once she was outside.

Meanwhile, the victim awoke, possibly also due to the smoke alarm sounding. She initially tried to control the fire, but retreated to the second floor, possibly believing her roommate was in the other upstairs bedroom. Firefighters found the victim in a second-floor bedroom.

The home, valued at $250,000, and its contents, valued at $100,000, sustained $55,000 in damage.

Electrical fire kills child
NORTH CAROLINA — A 2-year-old child died in her single-family home when an arcing cord ignited combustibles in the living room. 
Three adults were also injured in the blaze, including a 79-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman, both of whom were reportedly disabled, who suffered smoke inhalation injuries, and a 43-year-old woman, who suffered smoke inhalation and burns.

The single-story, wood-frame house, which was 60 feet (18 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide, had neither sprinklers nor any working smoke alarms.

An occupant of the house discovered the fire and called 911 at 7 a.m. There was a delay in alarm of about 10 minutes because the other occupants did not have a phone.

Investigators determined that a power cord plugged into a wall outlet in the living room and run out a window to a well house outside arced and ignited the contents of the living room.

The house, valued at $92,000, and its contents, valued at $3,000, were destroyed. The fire chief said that he believed the lack of working smoke alarms was a contributing factor in the death and injuries.

Smoking materials blamed for fatal fire
WISCONSIN — A 56-year-old man who was mobility-impaired and who lived alone died in a fire started by smoking materials.

The one-story, wood-frame duplex, which was 36 feet (11 meters) long by 26 feet (8 meters) wide, had a wooden truss roof covered by asphalt shingles. There were battery-operated smoke alarms in the basement and on the first floor of the house, but their performance was undetermined. There were no sprinklers.

A neighbor called 911 at 8:59 p.m. to report the fire, and fire crews arrived seven minutes later to find one side of the duplex heavily involved in flames, which had broken out the front window. Once crews knocked the fire down, they entered the house in search of the man, whom neighbors said might be trapped inside. They found him overcome by burns in the living room.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the living room in front of a sleep sofa and ignited combustibles in that area. They also found several hundred cigarette butts in plastic bags near the point of origin and evidence suggesting that the fire might have been started by a lit cigarette that the victim dropped when he fell asleep.

The fire did $50,000 worth of damage to the house, which was valued at $81,000, and $15,000 in damage to its contents, valued at $30,000.

Elderly sisters die in cooking fire
TENNESSEE — A 101-year-old woman and her 95-year-old sister died of smoke inhalation and burns in a fire that started when oil heating on the stove ignited. One of the victims had mobility problems and required help getting around. Her sister was severely visually impaired.

The single-family, wood-frame, split-level house, which covered approximately 2,850 square feet (265 meters), had living spaces, a kitchen, and a master bedroom and bath on the grade level and other bedrooms and bathrooms on the other level. There were no smoke alarms or sprinklers.

A neighbor noticed heavy smoke and called 911 at 7:19 p.m., reporting both the fire and the presence of the two women. Arriving firefighters found smoke venting from the front middle portion of the house and heavy fire at the rear. They began an aggressive interior attack and started searching for the two sisters. When they approached the victims’ shared bedroom, they found the door closed, but heavy smoke and toxic fire gases had begun to fill the room.

One of the women slept propped up in a hospital bed, which subjected her to more heat than her sister, who slept in a twin bed in the same room. Firefighters took the two to the hospital, where the 95-year-old died the next day of her injuries. Her sister died eight days after the fire of complications from her injuries.

The sisters lived with one of the women’s daughters and one of the daughter’s two children. Just before the fire started, the daughter cooked dinner for her mother and aunt. After dinner, she put her mother to bed while her aunt sat in a chair near their bedroom. She then left the house to deliver some food to a sick friend who lived about 15 minutes away.

After the neighbor who discovered the fire called 911, he tried to enter the rear of the house to rescue the women but was turned back by heat and smoke. He then ran to the front of the house, broke the women’s bedroom window, cutting his hand. He tried calling to them, but they did not answer. Other neighbors called the daughter to alert her to the fire.

Investigators determined that a frying pan containing a small amount of grease had been left on the electric burner, which was set at a low temperature, possibly so low that the daughter thought the burner was off. The grease continued to heat and ignited quickly, spreading to the kitchen wall paneling and from there to the den.

The house, valued at $125,000, sustained $78,500 in structural damage. Damage to its contents, valued at $78,500, was estimated at $60,000.

Fire on balcony spreads to upper floor, killing child
NORTH CAROLINA — A 7-year-old autistic girl died of smoke inhalation in a fire that started on the balcony below her apartment.
The 12-unit, wood-frame building consisted of four connected buildings, each having a one-story apartment unit covering its footprint on the ground floor and two two-story townhouses above the apartment on the second and third floors. Its exterior walls had recently been covered in vinyl siding, and asphalt shingles covered the wood truss roof. The building, which was 125 feet (38 meters) long and 50 feet (15 meters) wide, had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.

The occupant of the townhouse heard a thump followed several minutes later by another thump and went to investigate. When he saw a fire on his balcony, he and his wife immediately left the apartment to alert others in the building and called the fire department at 7:28 a.m. It wasn’t until a few moments after leaving the building that he realized his daughter was still asleep in an upper-floor bedroom.
Firefighters arriving within a minute of the 911 call were told that the little girl was trapped, and were given her specific location by the child’s father. The crew advanced a hose line into the building, and one firefighter held the flames back with the hose line, allowing three others to reach the victim and remove her from the building. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Investigators determined that the fire began at an electric freezer on the balcony that was connected to an exterior outlet by an 8-foot (2-meter) electric extension cord. The father reported that the GFI circuit breaker for the freezer had been tripping repeatedly. The freezer’s motor and compressor were heavily damaged, as was the structural wood framing of the balcony below it. The fire damaged five units in all.

The building, which was valued at $1.3 million, sustained a $210,000 loss. The value of its contents and the loss figures were not reported.


Million-dollar loss in stadium fire
NORTH DAKOTA — A fire that started in a speaker cluster in a stadium caused significant damage, most of it due to smoke, before firefighters could extinguish it.

The two-story, steel-frame stadium, which was approximately 650 feet (200 meters) long and 700 feet (210 meters) wide, had concrete block walls covered with brick and a metal roof with a rubber covering. A wet-pipe sprinkler system protected the stadium with the exception of the upper reaches. A fire detection system provided a similar coverage area.

A stadium employee who was at the facility after hours discovered the fire and called 911 at 1 p.m. The fire had burned undetected for approximately 17 minutes because it started above the fire detection and sprinkler systems at a time when the building was nearly empty.

Responding firefighters found the fire in a speaker cluster hanging from the ceiling over the arena floor.
Investigators determined that the fire began when an electrical arc ignited combustible materials. The resulting flames spread to the entire speaker cluster.

The building, valued at $110 million, sustained $1 million in damage. Its contents, valued at $50 million, sustained a $500,000 loss. There were no injuries.

Multimillion-dollar fire destroys restaurant and bar
TEXAS — A fire in a combination bar and restaurant spread through the concealed spaces of the large commercial building it occupied, resulting in a multimillion-dollar loss.

The single-story, steel-frame, L-shaped building had a flat roof covered with a built-up surface topped with tar and gravel. The exterior walls were metal studs with a stone and brick veneer. Most of the building was occupied by the bar and restaurant; one other tenant occupied 1,200 square feet (110 square meters) at the west end. The bar and restaurant covered 11,400 square feet (1,060 square meters) and included a kitchen, dining area, and large billiards room. Its ceiling was 10 feet (3 meters) high with approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) of void space to the bottom of the roof deck. Two two-hour fire walls and two rolling steel fire doors, with fusible link actuators, broke the occupancy into 5,400- and 6,000-square-foot (500- and 560-square-meter) sections, and a fire wall and rolling steel fire door separated the kitchen from the dining room. The restaurant had a fire detection system with manual pull stations and a single smoke detector above the fire alarm panel. In the kitchen, a hood fire extinguishing system had been installed. There were no sprinklers.

On the afternoon of the fire, the property manager received a call from the alarm company reporting a burglar alarm motion detector activation. She drove to the building and found that a video game, which had tripped the alarm in the past when it had been left on, had been left on again. She shut down the game and checked on a walk-in cooler. She then secured the building and left. In the evening, she returned to turn off the outside lights and checked the cooler again, adjusting the temperature settings to remove ice build-up on the coils.

On her way home, she received a second call from the alarm company about a motion detector in a different area. She told the company she suspected another false alarm and returned to check it out. The fire department apparently received a fire alarm call from the alarm company at about the same time, but they were advised while en route that it was a false alarm.

As the manager approached the building, she saw smoke coming from the roof and called 911 at 10:20 p.m. The fire department arrived five minutes later to find heavy smoke and flames coming the roof and smoke coming from the eaves.

The incident commander ordered a defensive attack on the unoccupied building, told crews to maintain collapse zones around the building, and ordered them to protect the exposures. Firefighters established water supplies and began using large-diameter hose lines and elevated master streams to put water into the building, the interior of which was fully involved. During suppression, the roof collapsed in several areas.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the ceiling void, although they could not determine the exact point of origin or the failure that started the fire. The fire walls and fire doors did not function as intended, and investigators considered it likely that fire walls were penetrated above the ceiling, allowing the fire to spread.

The building and its contents, valued at $2.5 million, were destroyed. There were no injuries.


Sprinklers control incendiary fire in retail store
TENNESSEE — A retail store’s sprinklers helped contain a fire that started when someone used an open flame device to ignite combustibles in three separate areas, creating thick, black smoke that forced employees and customers to flee the building.

The single-story, steel-frame store, which sold general goods and clothing, had brick exterior walls. The building had a sprinkler system, but its type and coverage were not reported, nor was the presence or absence of fire detection or alarm equipment.

The fire department received a 911 call at 3:08 p.m., and arriving firefighters found staff and customers fleeing from the smoke coming from one of the store’s entrances. They extinguished fires in three places.

Investigators determined that the fire was of incendiary origin and had been started in a fixed display of toilet paper, an end cap displaying paper napkins, and a fixed display of mops. They noted moderate to extensive heat damage to shelving and merchandise, and mild to moderate smoke and water damage to areas near the points of ignition.

Structural damage was estimated at $5,000, and damage to the store’s contents was estimated at $10,000. There were no injuries.


Fire in concealed areas damages manufacturing plant
INDIANA — Sprinklers were unable to stop a fire in a two-story manufacturing plant from spreading through wall and ceiling voids to both floors, although they did limit its spread across open areas of the building.

The plant, which was 500 feet (152 meters) long and 300 feet (91 meters) wide, was located next to a railroad siding. Its wet-pipe sprinkler system operated as designed.

Firefighters called to the scene at 3:52 a.m. by a water flow alarm arrived five minutes later to find smoke coming from the roof. After calling for additional resources, the ladder crew went to the roof to check for fire, while an engine company advanced a hose line to the second floor, where they reported heavy smoke and fire in the processing and manufacturing area. The incident commander ordered the ladder truck repositioned to another side of the building in case a defensive attack was required. He also ordered the railroad track shut down and additional water supplies for the sprinkler connection.

The sprinklers confined the fire to the walls of the first floor and the ceiling between the two floors, and firefighters extinguished it before performing a primary search and salvage and overhaul.

Investigators reported that the fire started in concealed wall and ceiling voids, but they could not determine the source of the ignition.

The building, valued at $1.5 million, sustained $80,000 in structural losses. Its contents, valued at $500,000, sustained an estimated loss of $20,000. There were no injuries.