Saturday, August 20, 2011

NIOSH Report addresses Operational Issues at Metal Recycling Facility Fire

NIOSH Report Issue: Seven Career Fire Fighters Injured at a Metal Recycling Facility Fire - California

NIOSH Exective Summary

On July 13, 2010, seven career fire fighters were injured while fighting a fire at a large commercial structure containing recyclable combustible metals. At 2345 hours, 3 engines, 2 trucks, 2 rescue ambulances, an emergency medical service (EMS) officer and a battalion chief responded to a large commercial structure with heavy fire showing. Within minutes, a division chief, 2 battalion chiefs, 3 engines, 3 trucks, 4 rescue ambulances, 2 EMS officers and an urban search and rescue team were also dispatched.

An offensive fire attack was initially implemented but because of rapidly deteriorating conditions, operations switched to a defensive attack after about 12 minutes on scene. Ladder pipe operations were established on the 3 street accessible sides of the structure. Approximately 40 minutes into the incident, a large explosion propelled burning shrapnel into the air, causing small fires north and south of structure, injuring 7 fire fighters, and damaging apparatus and equipment. Realizing that combustible metals may be present, the incident commander ordered fire fighters to fight the fire with unmanned ladder pipes while directing the water away from burning metals. Approximately 2 ½ hours later, two small concentrated areas remained burning and a second explosion occurred when water contacted the burning combustible metals. This time no fire fighters were injured.

Contributing Factors

  • Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
  • Unknown building contents
  • Unrecognized presence of combustible metals
  • Use of traditional fire suppression tactics
  • Darkness

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that pre-incident plans are updated and available to responding fire crews
  • Ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in combustible metal fire recognition and tactics
  • Ensure that policies are updated for the proper handling of fires involving combustible metals
  • Ensure that first arriving personnel and fire officers look for occupancy hazard placards on commercial structures during size-up
  • Ensure that all fire fighters communicate fireground observations to incident command
  • Ensure that fire fighters wear all personal protective equipment when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health environment
  • Ensure that an Incident Safety Officer is dispatched on the first alarm of commercial structure fires
  • Ensure that collapse/hazards zones are established on the fireground.
The fire department had a comprehensive list of SOGs and policies. However, the policy for the extinguishment of combustible metal fires was out dated. This policy called for copious amounts of water to be put on the combustible metal fire. The SOG for pre-incident planning was followed at this incident. However, due to the constantly changing business environment, the company had submitted a business plan that identified hazards to the city but this information did not get updated in the computer-aided dispatching (CAD) database for the fire department or dispatch.

 A month prior to this incident on June 11, 2010, at 11:00 a.m., the same business owner's metal processing facility located diagonally across the street from this incident, had several small explosions and fire. This incident required 36 fire department companies, 16 rescue ambulances, 1 USAR team, 2 hazardous material teams, 7 BCs, 1 DC, and a DDC, totaling 248 fire department personnel, in addition to mutual aid. Approximately 2 ½ hours of fire suppression operations with water brought the fire under control, which encompassed a 150' x 100' area of combustible metal shavings.

The company had metal –X (a brand of combustible metal fire extinguishing agent) available, but not enough of it to be effective. No fire fighters were injured. However, a civilian worker was critically injured and a police officer received minor injuries.

  • NIOSH REPORT 2010-30 Direct Link HERE
  • Fom the LAFD Press Release on July 15, 2010
On Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 11:43 PM, 41 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 21 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 3 Arson Units, 1 Urban Search and Rescue Unit, 1 Rehab Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 3 EMS Battalion Captains, 8 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams, 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team and 2 Bulldozers under the direction of Deputy Chief Mario Rueda responded to a Major Emergency Structure Fire at 761 East Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles (CA).

More than 200 Los Angeles Firefighters were requested over the course of the incident to help battle blaze at a large two-story commercial structure that encompassed six occupancies over an entire city block. Firefighters quickly arrived at United Alloys and Metals to find heavy fire at an industrial facility known for processing titanium and super alloy scrap.

The 73 year-old structures between Paloma Avenue and Mckinley Avenue, were quickly engulfed in flames and forced firefighters into a defensive attack early during this huge fire fight. Shortly after midnight the decision was made to pull all Firefighters out of the structure and attack the flames from the exterior.

Approximately 20 minutes following this decision a partial wall collapse, roof collapse, and a total of three explosions took place. These massive blasts rained down debris of concrete and titanium on Firefighters and even shattered windows of emergency vehicles.

From this point forward it became a heavy stream operation with ladder pipes and portable monitors that provided huge volumes of water against the intense flames. Despite the challenges of extinguishing burning titanium and the devastating explosions, the blaze was controlled in just five hours. Exhausted Firefighters were relieved the next morning by their colleagues who continued the extended overhaul and detailed salvage procedure. Link HERE
Operational and Training Questions:
  • What training and education have you attained on combustible metals fire? Are you prepared to handle the first-due or initial command?
  • How prepared are your Company Officers and Incident Commanders in addressing Strategic and Tactical operations at incidents involving combustible metals?
  • Does your fire department, company or jurisdiction have the resources to command, control and mitigate such an event?
  • Are you aware of properties, occupancies and structures in your jurisdiction that contain, process, store or have primary or ancillary combustible metals risk, hazards or expsoure concerns?
  • Are they pre-fire planned, are those plans up to-day?
  • Are you and your organization prepared?
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  2. Metal recycling in NJ is an excellent procedure where the materials are categorized and divided, then enhanced and ready. Recycling solutions can provide clients the value of restored content in money or the real metal.

  3. Metal recycling in NJ is an excellent procedure where the materials are categorized and divided, then enhanced and ready. Recycling solutions can provide clients the value of restored content in money or the real metal.


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