Saturday, February 26, 2011

World Trade Center Bombing-1993 Remembered

For most people the date of February 26th
doesn't carry a great deal of significance, however to others it was an ominous precursor of things to come....

At 18 minutes after noon on February 26, 1993, a huge bomb went off beneath the two towers of the World Trade Center. This was not a suicide attack. The terrorists parked a truck bomb with a timing device on Level B-2 of the underground garage, then departed. The ensuing explosion opened a hole seven stories up. Six people died. More than a thousand were injured.

An FBI agent at the scene described the relatively low number of fatalities as a miracle.Eight and one half years prior to the devastatingly fatal blows to the World Trade Center in New York, a Ryder truck carrying approximately 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of a homemade fertilizer-based explosive detonates at 12:18 in the afternoon.

The blast produced a crater stretching over 150 feet through five floors on the 26th of February 1993. Let it also be noted that this was the second anniversary of the ending of the first Gulf War. Initial reports suggested that the blast was the result of an exploded generator, but evidence gathered shortly thereafter suggested that it was clearly a malicious act that resulted in the injuries of over 1,000 people, and the deaths of six others.

The mastermind behind this terrorist attack was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, a previously sought criminal who was suspected for the formulation of criminal plots against Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton, and potentially fatal attacks against numerous flights in 1995.
Yousef’s capture later that year lead to the discovery of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s network of loosely tied Islamic militants. Yousef was convicted of the WTC bombing on November 12, 1997; however, a concrete analysis of the 1993 WTC attack must include an in depth examination of this figure, which will be discussed further.

On that fateful day in 1993, dispatcher Frank Raffa, of the FDNY, recalls the sentiment of the initial emergency phone call. “The working theory was that a transformer vault explosion had occurred in the basement of the World Trade Center Complex.”

However, as Raffa Writes, “Normally, when a fire or emergency occurs that generates numerous phone calls, the phones stop ringing once an apparatus arrives. This time the phones never stopped.” This was the sign that a major catastrophe was developing.” Such calls indicated that smoke spread through the first thirty-three floors of the WTC towers, as well as the Vista Hotel, within only three minutes. With such a mass volume of telephone calls from panicking personnel in need of immediate help, the incident command was divided into three zones, one for each affected building.

Even still, due to the sheer numbers of callers and absent the responders to field these calls, the acts of milling, rumors, and keynoting, the basic components to human interaction during a collective behavior situation, resulted in poor advice from certain actors and mediums. Such an event is described by Raffa:

“One of the newscasters went on the air and advised people in the towers that if they were having trouble breathing, they should break out the glass window. This was the worst thing they could have done. By now the entire tower was filled with smoke and was acting like a 110 story smokestack. About that time I answered a call from someone seeking instructions. By now, we were told to tell all callers to stay where they are, block all air vents with whatever rags they could find, stay calm, and wait. ”

“The caller told me he was going to break out a window. He was on the 54th floor. I advised him not to stating that there are over 500 emergency personnel on the ground and he’d kill someone with the falling debris. Not to mention the fact that the open window will allow smoke to enter the area and vent itself. He hung up and went to break the window. I advised the radio dispatcher to let the command post know to expect falling glass from the 54th floor. Later, the newscaster was “admonished” by his supervisors.”

The bombing was noted as having been the largest incident ever handled in the City of New York Fire Department’s 128-year history prior to September 11, 2001. In toll, based on the number of units that responded, the incident resulted in the equivalent of a 16-alarm fire.

On February 26, 1993, a 1,000-pound nitrourea bomb was detonated inside a rental van on the B2 level of the WTC parking garage, causing massive destruction that spanned seven levels, six below-grade. The L-shaped blast crater on B2 at its maximum measured 130 feet wide by 150 feet long.

The blast epicenter was under the northeast corner of the Vista Hotel
FDNY ultimately responded to the incident with;
  • 84 engine companies,
  • 60 truck companies,
  • 28 battalion chiefs,
  • 9 deputy chiefs,
  • 5 rescue companies and
  • 26 other special units (representing nearly 45 percent of the on-duty staff of FDNY)
  • The department units maintained a presence at the scene for 28 days
  • It is estimated that approximately 50,000 people were evacuated from the WTC complex over a course of eleven hours, including nearly 25,000 from each of the two towers
  • Six people died and 1,042 were injured.
  • Of those injured;
  • 15 received traumatic injuries from the blast itself
  • Nearly 20 people complained of cardiac problems, and nearly 30 pregnant women were rescued. Eighty-eight firefighters (one requiring hospitalization),
  • 35 police officers, and one EMS worker sustained injuries
  • Fire alarm dispatchers received more than 1,000 phone calls, most reporting victims trapped on the upper floors of the towers
  • Search and evacuation of the towers were finally completed some 11 hours after the incident began

 For links to photos, report, video clips and initial FDNY audio radio transmissions, link over to, HERE

Who would have imagined in 1993 what events would unfold in 2001 at the WTC complex and for the nation….

Friday, February 25, 2011

LAFD LODD: Hollywood Hills Mansion Investigating Building Standards

Hollywood Hills Mansion Investigating Building Standards
As the funeral services commence today for 38-year veteran LAFD firefighter Glenn L. Allen who was killed in the line of duty as a result of being trapped beneath rubble when the roof and ceiling collapsed during a blaze at a Hollywood Hills mansion on Feb. 17, the 12,000-square-foot home in the 1500 block of N. Viewsite Drive was declared a crime scene by police Wednesday.

Investigators are looking into whether design and construction issues might have contributed to the collapse, the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department said.

Authorities have ruled out arson as the cause of the blaze, LAPD Capt. Kevin McClure said Thursday, but have not yet determined the cause of the fire, or whether a crime was committed.

The fire appears to have started near a fireplace and then extended into the attic, according to L.A. City Fire Deputy Chief Mario Rueda.

Officials say arson is not a factor and apparently a plastic line in the home’s sprinkler system burned through and filled the ceiling with water.

The LAPD’s robbery-homicide division is now in charge of the investigation, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department and the L.A. Fire Department.

According to published reports; “The city of Los Angeles has stringent building codes, and those building codes are made not only to protect residents, but also to protect our firefighters,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told KTLA. “So we’re looking into what exactly was the situation at that house.”

Firefighters were on the roof trying to ventilate the house when the ceiling collapsed, Rueda said.

The owners of the house, who had been living there for about a week, escaped the blaze unharmed.

Five other firefighters were treated with injuries.

The 61-year-old was about a year from retirement, according to fire officials

Various insights and reports related to the investigation and focus on the building construction, permitting process and certificate of occupancy.




  • Other Previous Postings HERE
  • Gypsum Board Ceiling Systems and Firefigher Safety, HERE
  • Did Firefighter Glenn Allen Die Because of a Reality Show? HERE

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Meridian Plaza High Rise Fire: Twenty Years Ago

On what began as an uneventfull saturday night twenty years ago, a fire on the 22nd floor of the 38-story Meridian Bank Building, also known as One Meridian Plaza, was reported to the Philadelphia Fire Department on February 23, 1991 at approximately 2040 hours and went on to burned for more than 19 hours.

The fire caused three firefighter fatalities (LODD) and injuries to 24 firefighters.

PFD Line of Duty Deaths:
  • Captain David P. Holcombe, age 52
  • Firefighter Phyllis McAllister, age 43
  • Firefighter James A. Chappell, age 29
Take the time today to remember the sacrifices made twenty years ago, and to learn the lessons from this incident, that are still applicable today.
Other incident Insights;
  • The 12-alarms brought 51 engine companies, 15 ladder companies, 11 specialized units, and over 300 firefighters to the scene.
  • It was one of the largest high-rise office building fire in modern American history –completely consuming eight floors of the building –and was controlled only when it reached a floor that was protected by automatic sprinklers.
  • The Fire Department arrived to find a well-developed fire on the 22nd floor, with fire dropping down to the 21st floor through a set of convenience stairs.
  • Heavy smoke had already entered the stairways and the floors immediately above the 22nd.
  • Fire attack was hampered by a complete failure of the building’s electrical system and by inadequate water pressure, caused in part by improperly set pressure reducing valves on standpipe hose outlets.
The USFA published a technical report (USFA-TR-049) on the One Meridian Plaza fire that is still available for download from the USFA web site, HERE. The report clearly defined the need in 1991, for built-in fire protection systems and reiterated the fact that fire departments alone cannot expect or be expected to provide the level of fire protection that modem high-rises demand.

That fire protection must be built-in to the structures. This was clearly illustrated in this event when the One Meridian Plaza fire was finally stopped when it reached a floor where automatic sprinklers had been installed.One Meridian Plaza was a 38-story high-rise office building, located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, in an area of high-rise and mid-rise structures.


  • Origin and Cause: The fire started in a vacant 22nd floor office in a pile of linseed oil-soaked rags left by a contractor. Fire Alarm System The activation of a smoke detector on the 22nd floor was the first notice of a possible fire. Due to incomplete detector coverage, the fire was already well advanced before the detector was activated.
  • Building Staff Response: Building employees did not call the fire department when the alarm was activated. An employee investigating the alarm was trapped when the elevator opened on the fire floor and was rescued when personnel on the ground level activated the manual recall. The Fire Department was not called until the employee had been rescued.
  • Alarm Monitoring Service: The private service which monitors the fire alarm system did not call the Fire Department when the alarm was first activated. A call was made to the building to verify that they were aware of the alarm. The building personnel were already checking the alarm at that time.
  • Electrical Systems: Installation of the primary and secondary electrical power risers in a common unprotected enclosure resulted in a complete power failure when the fire-damaged conductors shorted to ground. The natural gas powered emergency generator also failed.
  • Fire Barriers: Unprotected penetrations in fire-resistance rated assemblies and the absence of fire dampers in ventilation shafts permitted fire and smoke to spread vertically and horizontally.
  • Ventilation openings: in the stairway enclosures permitted smoke to migrate into the stairways, complicating firefighting.
  • Unprotected openings in the enclosure walls of 22nd floor electrical closet permitted the fire to impinge on the primary and secondary electrical power risers.
  • Standpipe System and Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs): Improperly installed standpipe valves provided inadequate pressure for fire department hose streams using 1 3/ 4-inch hose and automatic fog nozzles. Pressure reducing valves were installed to limit standpipe outlet discharge pressures to safe levels. The PRVs were set too low to produce effective hose streams; tools and expertise to adjust the valve settings did not become available until too late.
  • Locked Stairway Doors: For security reasons, stairway doors were locked to prevent reentry except on designated floors. (A building code variance had been granted to approve this arrangement.) This compelled firefighters to use forcible entry tactics to gain access from stairways to floor areas.
  • Fire Department Pre-Fire Planning: Only limited pre-fire plan information was available to the Incident Commander. Building owners provided detailed plans as the fire progressed. · Firefighter Fatalities: Three firefighters from Engine Company 11 died on the 28th floor when they became disoriented and ran out of air in their SCBAs.
  • Exterior Fire Spread: “Autoexposure” Exterior vertical fire spread resulted when exterior windows failed. This was a primary means of fire spread.
  • Structural Failures: Fire-resistance rated construction features, particularly floor-ceiling assemblies and shaft enclosures (including stair shafts), failed when exposed to continuous fire of unusual intensity and duration.
  • Interior Fire Suppression Abandoned: After more than 11 hours of uncontrolled fire growth and spread, interior firefighting efforts were abandoned due to the risk of structural collapse.
  • Automatic Sprinklers: The fire was eventually stopped when it reached the fully sprinklered 30th floor. Ten sprinkler heads activated at different points of fire penetration. · The three firefighters who died were attempting to ventilate the center stair tower: They radioed a request for help stating that they were on the 30th floor. After extensive search and rescue efforts, their bodies were later found on the 28th floor. They had exhausted all of their air supply and could not escape to reach fresh air. At the time of their deaths, the 28th floor was not burning but had an extremely heavy smoke condition.
After the loss of three personnel, hours of unsuccessful attack on the fire, with several floors simultaneously involved in fire, and a risk of structural collapse, the Incident Commander withdrew all personnel from the building due to the uncontrollable risk factors. The fire ultimately spread up to the 30th floor where it was stopped by ten automatic sprinklers.

For a more indepth look at the incident, with other references and links, go to , HERE

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fire-Related Firefighter Injuries Report Issued

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report examining the details of firefighter injuries sustained on the fireground or while responding to or returning from a fire incident.

The report, Fire-Related Firefighter Injuries Reported to NFIRS , was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is further evidence of FEMA’s effort to reduce the number of firefighter injuries through an increased awareness and understanding of their causes and how they might be prevented.

The report is part of the Topical Fire Report Series and is based on 2006 to 2008 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

According to the report:
  • An estimated 81,070 firefighter injuries occur annually in the United States.
  • 49 percent of firefighter injuries occur on the fireground and 6 percent occur while responding to or returning from a fire incident.
  • Overexertion/strain is the leading cause of fire-related firefighter injuries at 25 percent.
  • 38 percent of all fire-related firefighter injuries result in lost work time.
  • The majority of fire-related firefighter injuries (87 percent) occur in structure fires.
  • On average, structure fires have more injuries per fire than nonstructure fires.
  • Firefighter injury fires are more prevalent in July (10 percent) and peak between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m.
Topical reports are designed to explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information. Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.





Eighty-seven percent of firefighter injuries reported to NFIRS from 2006 to 2008 were associated with structure fires

Three times as many firefighter injuries occur in residential structures than in nonresidential structures, tracking with overall residential/nonresidential fire incidence.

Overall, firefighter injuries in residential struc-tures account for 65 percent of firefighter injuries, a majority of which occur in residential building fires.

Building fires also make up more than half of the firefighter injuries in structure fires on nonresidential properties.
Outside, vehicle, and other fires combined represent 13 percent of firefighter injuries from 2006 to 2008.

Fire-Related Firefighter Injuries by Affiliation and Age

Injuries to career firefighters are the largest share (66 percent) of the reported injuries. Nationally, only 28 percent of the fire service is career firefighters.

Injuries to career firefighters tend to occur in midcareer (ages 30–45) with the peak between ages 35 and 39. Injuries to volunteers, on the other hand, are sustained predominately by the younger members of the organization. Firefighters under the age of 25 account for 29 percent of injuries in the volunteer service.

Career firefighters also experience proportionally more lost-time injuries than their volunteer counterparts (approximately 2 to 1). Volunteer firefighters, on the other hand, receive far more no lost-time injuries.




Addtional Reference Reports on
Don't forget about the Research Hub at HERE


Friday, February 11, 2011

Fire Fighter Neat Miss Report

Report of the Week

The room went boom! 09/02/2010

Report Number: 10-0001034

Report Date: 08/05/2010 16:34

  • Fire flashes on overhaul crew.
  • Demographics Department type: Paid Municipal
  • Job or rank: Fire Fighter
  • Department shift: 24 hours on - 48 hours off 
  • Age: 25 - 33 
  • Years of fire service experience: 4 - 6
  • Region: FEMA Region VII
  • Service Area: Urban

 Event Information
  • Event type: Fire emergency event: structure fire, vehicle fire, wildland fire, etc.
  • Event date and time: 02/02/2008 21:00
  • Hours into the shift:
  • Event participation: Involved in the event
  • Weather at time of event: Clear and Dry
Do you think this will happen again?
What were the contributing factors? Situational Awareness Communication Teamwork Decision Making

What do you believe is the loss potential? Life threatening injury

Event Description

Brackets [ ] denote reviewer de-identification.

We responded to a structure fire at a 3-story wood-frame home. Upon arrival we found fire located on the first floor in the kitchen. I was assigned to Truck [1] which was the second due truck to the fire. The main body of fire was extinguished and overhaul was initiated to look for fire extension.

I was partnered up with the driver of Truck [2] and assigned to the third floor. We opened up the wall on the B-side of the building and found a small fire. There were a total of 6 firefighters by this time in the area of this fire and 2 crews left due to heat conditions.

The fire then either flashed over, flamed over or a backdraft occurred, and firefighters outside reported visible fire from the 3rd floor. The room became very hot with smoke banking down to the floor and I proceeded to spray water everywhere and put out the fire. My partner was within arm’s length to me during the event but was unaware of my location.

The room went boom!

Lessons Learned I learned that I need situational awareness regardless of how small or big the fire is. Better communication with my partner & command was needed as well. Next time I'm lost or unaware of where I am at, I will follow the hoseline.

Discussion Questions

The lessons learned section of 10-1034 mentions maintaining situational awareness and accountability. When fire is discovered in a confined space, no matter how small or lazy it appears, it must be extinguished quickly.

We have no real way of knowing how long it has been smoldering or burning because if it is in a concealed space the opening we make to discover the fire actually creates the top of a burning chimney. Once you have read the entire account of 10-1034 and the related reports, consider the following:

1. What equipment do you consider the minimum for handling fire in concealed spaces?

2. Based on the description in 10-1034, would you describe the phenomenon as a backdraft or flashover? What leads you to your conclusion?

3. How often are you partnered with a member from another unit?

4. The thicker and darker the smoke, the (more or less) combustible it is.

5. When opening walls and ceilings, which type of hook (pike pole, drywall, all purpose, etc.) do you prefer and why?

Related Reports – Topical Relation: Backdraft

05-575  06-049  08-449  08-344  09-560

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.
Download the Report HERE
National FireFighter Near Miss Reporting System Site, HERE
Have you entered a near miss event that you heard about or witnessed?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fire Department = Community Risk Reduction / Management Team

It is perceived by fire service leaders that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus. This statement is becoming more and more common as you sit and talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer (EFO) research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) strategic planning meeting. So why do we need to change directions?

The fire service already responds and reactively handles the majority of emergencies and crisis within the community. We need to begin focusing on a proactive approach. With this being said, this would allow for not only a safer community but help focus on the quality of life of our citizens. If we are able to prevent most incidents from occurring the costs of those incidents will be significantly reduced, the quality of life will be improved and the potential for economic sustainability is increased. As government budgets continue to shrink, the impact of budget cuts to departments continue. The impact of these cuts is witnessed almost daily in the fire service with browning out of stations, closing of companies, staff reduction through attrition and yes even critical staffing reductions by employees being laid off. The fire service has reached a new fold in its history. With this new fold occurring we must adapt our philosophies, strategies and even our beloved tactics. When corporations and builders engineer and construct disposable buildings then we need to tactically focus our efforts on engineering and code requirements of automatic fire suppression systems and early detection systems. When the owners and builders ignore this option and a fire catastrophe strikes, we need to utilize the new rules of tactical engagement.

Fire departments will need to shift from traditional emergency responses services and transition into a combination of emergency responses services with a primary focus on being a community reduction team focusing on public safety in a multidimensional approach of safe buildings through code enforcement, building requirements, environmental impact, community safety, responder safety, community health and wellness and community risk reduction through research and education. We will become the mother ship that guides critical thinking in all aspects of safety throughout our community.

The fire service will need to focus on assembling a set of best practices in risk reduction and work diligently to manage risk via educating our communities, proactive engineering practices and code enforcement. However, the fire service does not collect data well at all. We have to transition to being very analytical of collecting certain complete and accurate quantifiable data based upon a standard data model for comparative benchmarking studies.

The battle is won however on the proactive side through risk reduction and risk management. The long term impacts will benefit everyone. Our success will be determined by not solely the retrospective data but community and family buy in. This relates to the true potential risk that exists, verses how it has been reduced
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