Looking Back at The Cherry Road Townhouse Fire, Double LODD; DCFD 1999

  Looking Back at The Cherry Road Townhouse Fire, Double LODD; DCFD  May 30th, 1999

DCFD Phillips and Matthews

 On May 30, 1999, (DCFD) fire fighters responded to a box alarm involving a townhouse fire at 3146 Cherry Rd NE, Washington, DC 20018-1612.

DCFD FireFighter Anthony Phillips, Engine 10

DCFD FireFighter Louis Matthews, Engine 26

From the NIOSH Report:  The initial report came in as a house fire, and it was later reported that the fire was in the basement (all fire fighters did not receive the follow-up report of fire in the basement). Engine 26 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters) was the first to arrive on the scene and reported smoke showing on the front (side 1) of a row of townhouses (see Diagram 1). A fire fighter (Victim #1) from Engine 26 advanced a 1½-inch attack line through the front door (1st floor). Soon after, the layout man from Engine 26 entered to back up Victim #1. Engine 17 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters) arrived shortly after and stretched a 350-foot 1½-inch hose line to the rear (side 3) (see Diagram 1).

Truck 15 (Captain and 3 fire Engine 26 and Engine 10 advanced their lines through the front door in a search for the fire and the basement door (at the top of the basement steps). As the two crews searched, Truck 4 made forcible entry through a sliding-glass door in the rear (basement entrance door at ground level). Engine 17 (at the basement door with a charged line) reported to the IC that they were on the first floor, in the rear, with a small fire showing (Engine 17 was actually at the basement level). Engine 17 radioed the IC for permission to open their line and knock down the fire.

Knowing that he had two engine crews on the first floor in the front, the IC denied Engine 17’s request until he could locate the interior crews’ positions. He radioed the officer from Engine 26 several times for their position, but received no response.Engine 17 asked a second time for permission to hit the fire, as it began to grow. The IC denied the request a second time and again tried unsuccessfully to radio the officer from Engine 26. Conditions in the interior rapidly deteriorated, forcing the fire fighters on the first floor to search for an exit. A fire fighter in the interior recalled seeing fire appear from a doorway on the first floor.

After seeing the fire, the fire fighter stated that everything went black and he felt an intense blast of heat. Victim #1 and Victim #2 were unable to escape, while the Lieutenant and a fire fighter from Engine 26 escaped with severe burns. All injured fire fighters were transported to a local hospital. The Lieutenant and fire fighter were admitted with burn injuries. Victim #1 was treated for severe burns and was pronounced dead the following day. Victim #2 was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. 
 
 Full DCFD Investigative Report HERE:  Cherry-Road-Investigation
DC Fire and Medical Services Department Report from the Reconstruction Committee Fire at 3146 Cherry Road, NE, Washington, DC  May 30, 1999

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY CHERRY ROAD RECONSTRUCTION

On May 30, 1999, District of Columbia Fire Fighters Anthony Phillips and Louis Matthews sustained critical injures in the line of duty that resulted in their deaths. Three additional fire fighters sustained injuries ranging from critical to minor. Fire Chief Donald Edwards (now retired) appointed a Reconstruction Committee to investigate and evaluate the emergency response activities at this fire. This report is the result of extensive interviews, independent investigation, and evaluation of the reports of other investigators. The Reconstruction Committee has found that the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department (Department) has several deficiencies, particularly in training, staffing, equipment, and administration. The mere knowledge of these shortcomings and recommended actions does nothing. Many of the recommendations contained in this report are the same recommendations made in a report of the investigation of the death of Sergeant John Carter in the Kennedy Street fire of October 24, 1997. Further inaction on these recommendations cannot be tolerated.

The Cherry Road fire was initially considered by most of the personnel to be a “routine” fire. The events that took place demonstrate the serious consequences that result from failure to train, equip, and staff appropriately. At 00:17:00 on May 30, 1999, the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Communications Center (Communications) received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a fire at 3150 Cherry Road, NE. In response, Communications dispatched Box Alarm 6178, consisting of engine companies E-26, E-17, E-10 and E-12, truck companies T-15 and T-4, a battalion fire chief (BFC-1) and a rescue squad (RS1). A second 9-1-1 call at 00:18:40 provided a corrected address of 3146 Cherry Road, NE, and reported that there was fire in the basement. Communications announced this new information, but only one of the responding companies acknowledged the address change. The first units were on the scene within approximately four minutes of dispatch.

Several initial actions were taken within the next five to six minutes.

  • The first due engine company, E-26, arrived to find heavy smoke pouring from the front door of the structure and advanced a 200-foot 1-1/2 inch attack line into the first floor area.
  • The first due truck company, T-15, arrived one minute later and began placing and ventilating at the front of the structure.
  • The second due truck company, T-4, arrived and prematurely began forcible entry and ventilation of the rear basement sliding glass door without an attack line in position for entry. The T-4 officer was informed by the occupant of the building that no one remained inside the structure, but T-4′s officer failed to report this information to the incident Commander. Truck 4′s officer also failed to give a rear size-up report.
  • Rescue Squad 1 arrived and, failing to follow SOPS, reported to the rear with one team entering along with a member of T-4. The RS-1 officer was informed by the occupant of the building that no one remained inside the structure, but RS-1′s officer failed to report this information to the Incident Commander.
  • The second due engine company, E-10, supplied a 350-foot 1-1/2 inch attack line to the rear and reported to the Incident Commander, BFC-1 that they were in a position to extinguish the fire.
  • The third due engine company, E-12, supplied E-26 with water and advanced a 400-foot 1-1/2 inch line into the first floor to back up E-26.
  • The fourth due engine company, E-12, supplied E-17 with water, then, failing to follow SOPS, advanced a 200-foot 1-1/2 inch line into the front of the building.
  • The Incident Commander, BFC-1, requested additional resources while en route, based upon the initial report from E-26. After observing the fire location and conditions in the rear, BFC-1 reported to the front of the building. Battalion Fire Chief 1 failed to establish a fixed command post and relied on a hand-held radio for communications, rather than the stronger radio mounted in his vehicle.

Conditions quickly deteriorated after the first six minutes of operations. Companies operating in the front of the building were unaware that fire was growing in the basement because of inadequate communications and improper ventilation activities. A failure to sound a “Mayday” alarm resulted in a failure to realize immediately that there were missing fire fighters and a delayed rescue response.

  • Fire Fighter Matthews (E-26) and F/F Morgan (E-26) advanced their attack line into the structure’s front door, followed by their officer. Fire Fighter Phillips (E-10) and E-10′s officer advanced their hose line to back up E-26. During the initial entry,. personnel indicated that they felt only moderate heat.
  • Truck 4 forced entry and ventilated the rear basement sliding glass door, and soon after, E-17′s officer requested permission to attack the fire from the rear. Battalion Fire Chief 1 was unsuccessful in an attempt to contact E-26 and E-10 to determine their location, and denied E-17 permission to attack.
  • Intense heat then traveled out of the basement and up the stairway to an inadequately ventilated first floor, severely burning the fire fighters. At this point, the fire fighters attempted to exit the building. Fire Fighters Phillips (E-10) and Matthews (E-26) were critically injured and unable to exit.
  • Engine 26′s officer informed BFC-1 that F/F Matthews did not exit the building. Engine 10′s officer noted that F/F Phillips did not exit the building but did not report this to BFC-1.
  • The seriousness of the situation was not fully realized until critically injured F/F Morgan (E-26) exited the building. BFC-1 then organized a rescue effort to search for F/F Matthews.

Rescue activities were also characterized by a lack of organization, effective communication, and personnel accountability. The rescue efforts also demonstrate the importance of each fire fighter wearing an automatically activated PASS (personal alarm safety system) integrated with the self-contained breathing apparatus.

  • When rescuers entered the building, they heard a PASS alarm. They found F/F Phillips face down on the first floor without his facepiece, apparently removed because it had started melting. It was difficult to extricate F/F Phillips from under a table; personnel noted that the first floor was extremely spongy and there were extreme heat conditions.
  • When F/F Phillips was brought outside, it was apparent that F/F Matthew: was still inside the structure and rescue efforts for F/F Matthews were resumed.
  • After a short search. F/F Matthews was located and evacuated. A total of approximately 21 minutes had elapsed from the time that the fire fighters were burned until all the fire fighters were evacuated from the building.

Fire Fighter Phillips died at 0l :08. Fire Fighter Matthews died the following day. Fire Fighter Morgan is still recovering from his burns.

Evidence has shown that the fire started in an electrical junction box in the space between the basement ceiling and the first floor, initially smoldered and consumed most of the air in the basement. The fire grew rapidly when the basement sliding glass door was broken, producing large amounts of super-heated fire gases. The fire gases traveled extremely quickly up the basement stairway to the first floor. The injured fire fighters were in the path of the superheated gases and were burned almost instantly.

The Reconstruction Committee determined that the deficiencies in operations and equipment resulting in these deaths fall into the following categories.

  • Fire fighter accountability (e.g., company officers failed to keep personnel together and operate as a team; personnel did not use the “Mayday” alert when fire fighters were discovered missing)
  • Fireground command (e.g., the Incident Commander failed to establish a fixed command post; did not have an aide and was thus unable to coordinate front and rear teams; failed to sector the incident)
  • Communications (e.g., no size-up report of the rear was provided; interior companies did not make radio transmissions of their initial attack and progress; it was impossible for injured fire fighters to communicate information because they did not have radios)
  • Company/unit operations (e.g., actions of companies were not coordinated, so the actions of some companies threatened the safety of others; some officers and fire fighters worked alone or with other companies instead of staying with their own companies; truck companies were inadequately staffed)
  • Safety (e.g., PASS devices that help locate fire fighters who are immobile were not in use by each fire fighter; the Department’s Safety Office lacks the staffing and authority to conduct appropriate investigations and follow-up on safety recommendations)
  • Administration (e.g., nearly identical recommendations, made following the Kennedy Street fire were not acted upon, resulting in many of the same problems at this incident; personnel do not receive adequate training in live fires because the Department’s fire training building is unusable)

Each of the identified problems has a solution, described in detail in this report. Some solutions are relatively easy, involving equipment and its use. Some are more complicated, and involve changing behaviors in individuals and attitudes throughout the Department. Proper training and staffing are key to solving many of the problems. It is clear, however, that none of these solutions are possible with the neglect, insufficient funding, and mismanagement that has characterized the Department. The Department’s budget must adequately support staffing, equipment and training. Additionally, the Department must no longer tolerate the notion that SOPs and proper fireground behaviors are only important for “major” fires and not as important for “routine” fires. The Department must vigorously enforce SOPS and demand professionalism at all levels of the fire department and at all emergency incidents.

  

Flashover Room Photo by DCFD.com

  
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

NIOSH investigators concluded in their 1999 report that, to minimize the risk of similar incidents, fire departments should:

  • ensure that the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are followed and refresher training is provided
  • provide the Incident Commander with a Command Aide
  • ensure that fire fighters from the ventilation crew and the attack crew coordinate their efforts
  • ensure that when a piece of equipment is taken out of service, appropriate back up equipment is identified and readily available
  • ensure that personnel equipped with a radio position the radio to receive and respond to radio transmissions
  • consider using a radio communication system that is equipped with an emergency signal button, is reliable, and does not produce interference
  • ensure that all companies responding are aware of any follow-up reports from dispatch
  • ensure that a Rapid Intervention Team is established and in position immediately upon arrival
  • ensure that any hose line taken into the structure remains inside until all crews have exited
  • consider providing all fire fighters with a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) integrated into their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
  • develop and implement a preventive maintenance program to ensure that all SCBAs are adequately maintained.

 

Aerial Alpha Side

 

Street Side-Alpha from Parking Lot

 

Aerial From the Delta Side

 

Aerial Charlie Side

   

Fire Intensity at the Front Door after the flashover on the Alpha Side

   

Post Flashover on the Charlie Side

   

INCIDENT INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

On May 30, 1999, two fire fighters died and two were injured while battling a townhouse basement fire. Two fire fightersVictim #1, a 30-year-old nozzleman from Engine 26, and Victim #2, a 29-year-old nozzleman from Engine 10had to be rescued when interior crews were hit by an intense blast of heat and flames. Victim #1 was rescued and transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead the following day. Victim #2 was rescued and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

On June 1, 1999, the International Association of Fire Fighters notified NIOSH of the incident, and on June 21, 1999, a Safety and Occupational Health Specialist, the Senior Investigator, and the Team Leader of the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, initially investigated this incident. On July 21, 1999, a Safety and Occupational Health Specialist and a Safety Engineer conducted additional interviews.

An Engineer and a Physical Scientist from NIOSH also completed an evaluation of the department’s SCBA maintenance program on July 21, 1999. On August 31, 1999, a Safety and Occupational Health Specialist returned to interview the seriously injured fire fighter.

Meetings and interviews were conducted with: the Chief, the Assistant Chief, the two Battalion Chiefs on the scene (one of whom was the Incident Commander), fire fighters on the box alarm, the department safety officer, and the investigation team from the fire department involved in the incident. Representatives from the personal protective equipment manufacturer, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who evaluated the victims’ personal protective equipment and will be developing the fire growth data for the department, the metropolitan police, and the owner of the townhouse were also interviewed.

Copies of photographs, training records, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the reports completed by fire department investigators, the autopsy reports, and the floor plan of the townhouse were obtained. A site visit was conducted and photographs of the fire scene were taken.The fire department involved in this incident is comprised of 1,764 total employees, of whom 1,182 are uniformed fire fighters. The department serves a population of approximately 1 million in a geographic area of 69 square miles. The fire department requires all new fire fighters to complete fire fighter level I and fire fighter level II requirements, Emergency Medical Technician courses, hazmat, driver and vehicle operations, first aid, search and rescue, live fire training, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Fire fighters are then assigned to a department where they are placed on probation for 1 year.

Each fire fighter is also certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Refresher training courses are continued throughout the year. The victims’ training records were reviewed and appeared to be adequate. Victim #1 had 6½ years of experience as a fire fighter and EMT, while Victim #2 had 3½ years of experience as a fire fighter and EMT.Additional companies responded to this incident; however, only those directly involved are included in this report.

Aerial view of fire scene

 

 

First due, Engine 26 laid a 3? (76 mm) supply line from a hydrant at the intersection of Banneker Drive and Cherry Road NE, positioned in the parking lot on Side A, and advanced a 200? 1-1/2? ( 61 m 38 mm) pre-connected hoseline to the first floor doorway of the fire unit on Side A (see Figures 1 and 2). A bi-directional air track was evident at the door on Floor 1, Side A , with thick (optically dense) black smoke from the upper area of the open doorway. Engine 26?s entry was delayed due to a breathing apparatus facepiece malfunction. The crew of Engine 26 (Firefighters Mathews and Morgan and the Engine 26 Officer) made at approximately 00:24.

Figure 1. Plot and Floor Plan-3146 Cherry Road NE

plot_and_floor

INVESTIGATION

On May 30, 1999, at 0017 hours, Central Dispatch received a call of a house fire. Dispatch toned out a box alarm which consisted of the following:

  • 1st due Engine 26 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters [including Victim #1])
  • 2nd due Engine 17 (Captain and 3 fire fighters)
  • 3rd due Engine 10 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters [including Victim #2])
  • 4th due Engine 12 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters)
  • 1st due Truck 15 (Captain and 3 fire fighters)
  • 2nd due Truck 4 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters)
  • Rescue 1 (Lieutenant and 4 fire fighters)
  • Battalion Chief 1 (the Incident Commander) (BC-1)

The working fire alarm was dispatched at 0023 hours and consisted of the following:

  • Engine 14 (Sergeant and 3 fire fighters)
  • Chief 2
  • Air 2 (1 fire fighter)
  • Fire Investigation Unit (Car 43) (fire investigator)
  • Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) (Car 83)
  • Medic 17 (2 paramedics)
  • Department Safety Officer

The Hazmat Unit was also dispatched at the same time as the working fire alarm.At 0029 hours, a task force alarm was toned with the following response:

  • Engine 6 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters)
  • Engine 4 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters)
  • Truck 7 (Lieutenant and 3 fire fighters)
  • Battalion Chief 4

As companies responded to the call of a house fire, dispatch made a second report that the fire was in the basement. During the investigation, it became clear that all companies did not receive the second report of a basement fire. Engine 26 was first to arrive on the scene at 0023 hours and reported smoke showing from the front of the building. Being the first-due engine, they positioned the engine in the small parking area in front of the row of townhouses (see Diagram 1). Engine 10 arrived behind Engine 26 as the third-due engine company and stretched a 400-foot, 1½-inch line to the front entrance (see Photo 1).

Engine 17 was the second-due engine company, also arriving at 0023 hours. Upon arrival, Engine 17 stretched a 350-foot, 1½ -inch line around the adjacent units (see Diagram 1) to the rear of the burning townhouse. Arriving at 0024 hours was Engine 12, as the fourth-due engine company, which by department Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), required them to back up Engine 17 in the rear. Instead of backing up Engine 17, the crew of Engine 12 went to the front. The IC (BC-1) was en route to the scene, and from the report he received from Engine 26, he requested a working-fire dispatch. The working-fire alarm dispatched Engine 14, Battalion Chief 2 (BC-2), Air 2, Fire Investigation Unit (Car 43), the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) unit (Car 83), Medic 17, and the department’s Safety Officer. The Hazmat Unit was also dispatched at the same time. The IC ordered BC-2 to take command of the rear when he arrived on the scene.The front door of the townhouse was open and emitting thick, black smoke. With a charged line, a fire fighter from Engine 26 (Victim #1) approached the front door, as his layout man and officer donned their SCBAs. Preparing to enter, Victim #1 experienced a problem with his SCBA facepiece. He returned to the engine and switched facepieces with his Wagon Driver. After switching facepieces, he told his officer at the front door that everything was working properly and he was taking in a line. With a charged line, he entered through the front door. Shortly after, the layout man entered, followed the line, and met the fire fighter (Victim #1).

The officer of Engine 26 entered last and proceeded into the structure to locate his crew. With a charged line, a fire fighter (Victim #2) and the Lieutenant from Engine 10 entered behind the officer from Engine 26 to provide back up. The layout man from Engine 10 was ordered by his Lieutenant to stay at the front door and feed the line inside.Truck 15 arrived on scene at 0024 hours as the first-due truck company, and started ventilation in the front according to department SOP requirements. The officer and a fire fighter on Truck 15 threw a ladder to the roof and the officer began to ventilate the large front window at ground level. Security bars were blocking the window, so a fire fighter from Truck 15 entered the structure, approximately 10 feet into the kitchen area, to vent the window from the interior. The fire fighter then exited the structure (see Floor Plan A-1).

Next, the officer from Truck 15 climbed the ladder and stopped at a window on the second floor to knock it out. After knocking out the window, he returned to the ground as the driver and Tillerman from Truck 15 climbed the ladder to the roof. The two of them cut approximately three vent holes in the roof and stated that thick, black smoke was emitting from the holes. Truck 4 arrived at 0025 hours as the second-due truck company and began ventilation in the rear of the structure. [NOTE: Truck 4 was responding for Truck 13, which was out of service at the time of this incident. Truck 13 was housed in the same station as Engine 10 and would have arrived on the scene at the same time as Engine 10 (approximately 2 minutes earlier) if it had been in service.] On arrival, a fire fighter and the officer from Truck 4 began forcible entry to the rear basement sliding-glass door (which was protected by an iron security gate (see photo 2)) as the driver and the Tillerman from Truck 4 threw ladders to the windows above the door (see Floor Plan A-2). The fire fighters stated that they saw small spot fires all over the basement floor.

The driver and the Tillerman tried to knock out the windows on the second floor, but felt they were unsuccessful because they could not feel the ladders breaking the glass. They also tried to break the sliding-glass door on the first floor with the ladder, but could not. [NOTE: The windows on the second floor were left open by the homeowner, which is why the fire fighters could not feel the glass break. The sliding-glass door on the first floor was a two-panel sliding-glass door, which fire fighters could not break with the ladder they were using. The sliding-glass door on the first floor had no security gate over it.]

The driver and Tillerman from Truck 4 left the ladder at the window on the second floor and returned to the truck to get a second ladder to go to the roof.Engine 17 was now positioned at the rear sliding-glass door as Truck 4 prepared entry (basement level). Using a gas-powered saw and a sledge hammer, the officer and fire fighter from Truck 4 removed the iron security gate and broke open the glass door at 0026 hours (see Photo 2). Members of Truck 4 and Engine 17 stated that when the sliding-glass door was opened, air began to be sucked inside by the fire. They also saw small fires on the floor and stated that when the door was opened the fires grew larger. The Lieutenant from Engine 17 reported to the IC that they had fire on the first floor and requested permission to hit the fire. [NOTE: Engine 17 was unaware that they were at the basement level due to the route they took to get to the rear. As they proceeded to the rear, they noticed the row houses they went between were only two stories, which caused confusion (see Diagram 1).]

The IC denied their request in fear of opposing hose lines. He then radioed the officer from Engine 26 to locate their position. He received no response from them. The IC knew that the crews from Engine 26 and Engine 10 had entered through the front door on the first floor.Rescue 1 arrived on the scene at approximately the same time that Truck 4 made entry. They were required to complete search and rescue operations. Two fire fighters from Rescue 1 and a fire fighter from Truck 4 entered the basement to search the interior for any civilians. Shortly after they entered, the Lieutenant from Engine 17 ordered them out as conditions began to deteriorate. One of the fire fighters who exited stated that they were able to follow a small path (limited fire) to the exterior before the entire basement erupted into flames.

The driver and Tillerman from Truck 4, who returned to the truck to retrieve a second ladder, saw that the basement was fully engulfed with fire. They decided to pull a line from Engine 12 to provide back up for Engine 17. Engine 12 was supplying Engine 17 and had positioned their engine towards the rear of the structure, but Engine 12’s crew proceeded to the front of the structure (see Diagram 1). The officer and a fire fighter from Engine 12 entered the front of the structure advancing approximately 2 to 3 feet, where they remained throughout the attack. The Lieutenant from Engine 17 requested to hit the fire a second time and was denied.

The IC denied their request because he still had not received a response from the officer of Engine 26. The IC radioed the officer of Engine 26 a second time and received no response.At this point Engine 26 and Engine 10 were inside the structure searching for the basement door. Department SOPs required them to locate the basement door and close it or hold off at the stairs with a fog spray. The fire fighter on Engine 26, who entered the structure to back up the Nozzleman (Victim #1) stated that it was extremely hot, but tolerable, when he met up with Victim #1. He stated that the floor was solid and as they proceeded further into the structure, and visibility was improving. He recalled seeing the sliding-glass door to the rear of the first floor, a table, and a sofa on his right side. This would position Victim #1 and the fire fighter in the living room, in front of the basement-stairs door (see Floor Plan A-1). He also stated there were no signs of fire and the heat remained constant. He could not recall his officer joining the two fire fighters, but did recall hearing a radio transmission. [NOTE: Only officers carry radios and he did not know whose radio he heard.]

It was determined that Engine 10 was inside backing them up at this time, however, the two fire fighters from Engine 26 were unaware of any other fire fighters inside.After hearing the radio transmission, the fire fighter from Engine 26, backing up Victim #1, looked over his left shoulder and saw fire appear, filling up what looked to be a doorway. He stated the fire came out of the doorway, then disappeared, and everything went black. At that point he felt an intense blast of heat. He dropped the line and immediately started squirming around in his turnouts, in an attempt to release the heat. He asked Victim #1 where the hose line was and related to him that something was wrong and they had to get out. Victim #1 responded by saying that he did not know where the hose line was. The fire fighter stated that Victim #1 sounded as if he was in a crouched position waiting to be rescued.

He then heard a loud scream from his left side, which lasted approximately 15 seconds. The scream was clear and not muffled by an SCBA. He stated that the scream was getting closer when he heard a loud thump, as if someone dropped to the floor, and then complete silence.

He then crawled forward and found the nozzle of a hose line. [NOTE: Victim #2 was found not wearing his SCBA facepiece. It is believed the scream was from Victim #2.] The Lieutenant on Engine 10 recalled that as they backed up Engine 26, he turned back towards the front door and could see some light from the front doorway (entrance). He also stated that it was very hot inside the structure. As he turned back around, he felt an intense blast of heat and was knocked backward by a frantic fire fighter attempting to exit. The lieutenant then exited through the front door. When the heat hit the fire fighters, the Lieutenant thought that he was in the hallway, next to the basement door (see Floor Plan A-1). The officer of Engine 26 stated that as he made his way toward the rear of the structure to join his crew, he also encountered an intense blast of heat. Feeling that he was being burned, he quickly turned, and exited through the front door. The layout man from Engine 10 started pulling out the hose line from Engine 10, in an attempt to assist Victim #2 in his exit. As he pulled the hose line out, he noticed there was no one on the end, which meant Victim #1, Victim #2, and the fire fighter from Engine 26 remained inside.As the officers from Engine 26 and Engine 10 exited, the IC was walking up to the structure to get a better position.

The IC was unaware of any problems until he got close enough to see the fire fighters exiting. He immediately ran to the front and saw the officer from Engine 26, who related to him that Victim #1 was still inside. The IC then saw the Lieutenant from Engine 10 and ordered him to go back inside with his crew and search for Victim #1. The IC later recalled that the Lieutenant from Engine 10 appeared to be dazed and did not relate to him that anyone else was missing. The IC only became aware that Victim #1 was missing at this time.The fire fighter from Engine 26, who was still inside, stated that as he grabbed the nozzle he rolled on his back and opened it on the ceiling in a straight stream circular pattern. He felt the room was going to flash and wanted to cool it down. As he applied water, he recalled seeing fire on the ceiling. He stated that the water reduced the heat, but it was still very hot. He opened the line a second time on the ceiling and did not see any fire. He then followed the line, exiting the structure. He did not hear any other fire fighters inside or any Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) alarming at that time. He stated that he was inside for approximately 1½ minutes from the time the blast of heat hit them until his exit. He exited the structure at approximately 0031 hours. He asked if Victim #1 had made it out and was told that he had not.

He communicated to the IC that he thought Victim #1 was still inside, straight back through the hall, and to the right by a sofa (see Floor Plan A-1).The IC received an additional request from Engine 17 in the rear, this time stating they were at the basement level and had heavy fire inside the basement. Engine 17 requested permission to hit the fire and the IC responded by telling them that they had a fire fighter down inside, on the first floor, and to hit the fire with a straight stream. Engine 17 opened the straight stream on the fire in the basement and quickly knocked it down.

At approximately 0032 hours, the Lieutenant from Engine 10 reentered the townhouse to begin his search.Joining the Lieutenant was the Lieutenant and a fire fighter from Rescue 1. They entered through the front door to begin their search, stating the heat was tolerable, and visibility was improving. As they got inside the structure they could hear a PASS alarm going off. They immediately followed the shrill alarm to locate a downed fire fighter. The fire fighter was lying under a table, unconscious, and with his SCBA facepiece off. His SCBA was equipped with an integrated PASS alarm, which was automatically activated when the victim turned on his SCBA. After locating the downed fire fighter, they called for assistance to remove him. The IC ordered the Hazmat crew to enter and assist removing the downed fire fighter. Engine 14’s crew was already on their way inside to provide assistance. Additional fire fighters from Engine 6 and Engine 4 also entered the townhouse and helped remove the victim to the front lawn, at approximately 0045 hours. They immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and provided medical treatment to the victim’s burns. The victim, who was later identified as Victim #2, was severely burned and the IC could not determine if it was the fire fighter they were searching for, or another fire fighter.

A fire fighter standing nearby related to the IC that he could tell by the size of the victim that it was not Victim #1. The IC continued the search efforts, and at approximately 0049 hours, Victim #1 was found and removed. He was found slumped over the couch face down.He was found equipped with a PASS device (manually operated) attached to his turnout gear. The PASS device was not activated and was found in the off position. [NOTE: The PASS device was later inspected and was determined to be working properly.] Fire fighters removed the victim to the front lawn of the structure where they located a pulse and immediately provided medical treatment. All three fire fighters, along with the Lieutenant from Engine 26, were transported to a nearby hospital.Victim #1 was treated for his burns and was admitted to the burn unit. He was pronounced dead the following day, May 31,1999, at 1450 hours. Victim #2 was pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital on May 30,1999, at 0108 hours. The injured fire fighter from Engine 26 received first-, second-, and third-degree burns to over 60 percent of his body.

He was admitted to the burn unit where he was treated for his burns. He has been released from the burn unit and is currently undergoing rehabilitation. The Lieutenant from Engine 26 received treatment for burns to his hands and head area and was released the following day.

CAUSE OF DEATH

According to the Medical Examiner, Victim #1 died due to thermal injuries involving 60% of total body surface area and airways. Victim #2 died due to thermal injuries involving 90% of total body surface area and airways.

Firefighting Operations

DC Fire and EMS Department standard operating procedures (SOP) specify apparatus placement and company assignments based on dispatch (anticipated arrival) order. Note that dispatch order (i.e., first due, second due) may de different than order of arrival if companies are delayed by traffic or are out of quarters.

Standard Operating ProceduresOperations from Side A

  • The first due engine lays a supply line to Side A, and in the case of basement fires, the first line is positioned to protect companies performing primary search on upper floors by placing a line to cover the interior stairway to the basement.
  • The first due engine is backed up by the third due engine.
  • The apparatus operator of the third due engine takes over the hydrant and pumps supply line(s) laid by the first due engine, while the crew advances a backup line to support protection of interior exposures and fire attack from Side A.
  • The first due truck takes a position on Side A and is responsible for utility control and placement of ladders for access, egress, and rescue on Side A.
  • If not needed for rescue, the aerial is raised to the roof to provide access for ventilation.
  • The rescue squad positions on Side A (unless otherwise ordered by Command) and is assigned to primary search using two teams of two. One team searches the fire floor, the other searches above the fire floor.
  • The apparatus operator assists by performing forcible entry, exterior ventilation, monitoring search progress, and providing emergency medical care as necessary.

Operations from Side C

  • The second due engine lays a supply line to the rear of the building (Side C), and in the case of basement fires, is assigned to fire attack if exterior access to the basement is available and if it is determined that the first and third due engines are in a tenable position on Floor 1.
  • The second due engine is responsible for checking conditions in the basement, control of utilities (on Side C), and notifying Command of conditions on Side C.
  • Command must verify that the first and third due engines can maintain tenable positions before directing the second due engine to attack basement fires from the exterior access on Side C.
  • The second due truck takes a position on Side C and is responsible for placement of ladders for access, egress, and rescue on Side C.
  • The aerial is raised to the roof to provide secondary access for ventilation (unless other tasks take priority).

Command and Control

  • The battalion chief positions to have an unobstructed view of the incident (if possible) and uses his vehicle as the command post.
  • On greater alarms, the command post is moved to the field command unit.
  • Notes: This summary of DC Fire & EMS standard operating procedures for structure fires is based on information provided in the reconstruction report and reflects procedures in place at the time of the incident. DC Fire & EMS did not use alpha designations for the sides of a building at the time of this incident. However, this approach is used here (and throughout the case) to provide consistency in terminology.

  

CFBT-US LLC ( Chief Ed Hartin’s exceptional blogg)  Has an excellent post and analysis of the Cherry Road Fire that was posted a few years ago, Check it out HERE

More from CFBT- US LLC HERE;

 

From wrightstyle.com.uk (HERE)

They call it the House of Pain, and the fire fighters of Engine Company 10 and Truck Company 13 experience quite a lot of it.  Theirs is one of the busiest fire station in the United States, serving a large residential area of northeast Washington DC. It gained its nickname in 1991, when fire crews were called out 9,947 times.  Between 1991 and 2000, the House of Pain responded to 75,526 fire and other emergencies.

Like all fire fighters, Anthony Phillips also had a nickname.  On his first day with Engine Company 10 he turned up wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words Hot Sauce.  No one had told him the cardinal rule of nicknames: you don’t get to pick your own. But it’s not all hard work in the House of Pain.  On the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend 1999, Anthony “Sauce” Phillips’ wife, Lysa, and their two children, aged six and 21 months, came to the station for a holiday visit.  Unusually for the fire station, it had been a quiet day.

The House of Pain lies in the Trinidad district of Fort Lincoln, where a civil war fort was built for the defense of Washington.  Nearby is the town of Bladensburg, the site of a battle in which American forces were heavily defeated by the British during the country’s revolution.

But the day didn’t end quietly for the fire fighters of the House of Pain.  Early on May 30th at seventeen minutes past midnight, the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Communications Center received a 911 telephone call reporting a fire at 3150 Cherry Road.

The residents of the property had been woken by their smoke alarm, gone downstairs to the first floor, and found smoke and heat.  Wisely, they left the house through the front door, leaving the front door open.

In response, Communications dispatched four engine and two truck companies, a battalion fire chief and a rescue squad.  A second 911 call less than two minutes later provided a corrected address of 3146 Cherry Road, and reported that there was fire in the basement.

Communications passed on the change of address, although only one of the responding fire companies acknowledged it.  However, the first units were on the scene within four minutes of dispatch, and at approximately 00:24:00 fire fighters began entering the first floor via the front door, through which was coming heavy smoke.

Among the fire fighters from Engines 10 and 26, the first to arrive on the scene, were Anthony Phillips and Louis Matthews, a 29-year-old divorced father who had celebrated his son’s second birthday only the week before.  Matthews was a seven-year veteran of the fire service.

Within two minutes, the front window on the first floor was taken out by the fire fighters to provide additional ventilation.  The window was removed from the inside, due to obstructions from security bars on the outside.  Fire fighters also opened windows on the second story at the front of the house.

Another fire team positioned by sliding glass doors at the basement level reported that the basement was full of smoke but that there seemed to be very little fire.  Despite significant confusion over the exact location of the fire fighters upstairs, a decision was taken to break out the basement’s sliding glass.

This was achieved in two stages.  First the right half was taken out at approximately 00:26:20.  Then the left side was removed approximately 20 seconds later.  Once again, there were obstructions from security bars.  After the sliding glass door was broken out, fire fighters entered the basement to conduct a search.

They reported that there were a number of small fires on the floor of the basement.  However, these rapidly increased in size after the sliding glass door was opened.  The fire fighters were ordered out of the basement as the fire quickly intensified.

Luckily, the team saw a tunnel through the smoke and it was that safe pathway that allowed them to find their way out of the basement, just before it became engulfed in a fully-fledged inferno.  Seconds later, from upstairs, came the first report of a fire fighter down.

It was worse.  District of Columbia Fire Fighter Anthony Phillips was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital, becoming the 96th fire fighter to die in the line of duty.  F/F Louis Mathews, the 97th, died the following day as a result of his injuries, the first double line-of-duty deaths in almost 90 years for the city’s fire service.

Two other fire fighters sustained minor injuries but a third, Fire Sergeant Joe Morgan, 36, also from Engine 26, spent 180 days in hospital and underwent over 21 surgical procedures for 60% burns.  On admission, the father of four was given only a 5% chance of survival, and one doctor described his recovery as a miracle.  Joe Morgan returned to work as an instructor, never again as a front-line fire fighter, but soon afterwards was forced to retire because of disability.

It was the very routine nature of the fire and its tragic outcome that prompted the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Reconstruction Committee to request a full investigation into the fire dynamics of the incident. This was carried out by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), whose mission is to conduct basic and applied fire research, including fire investigations, for the purposes of understanding fundamental fire behavior and to reduce loss of life.

The investigation made use of the NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS), a computer modeling program that looked at data from three sources: the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Reconstruction Committee, photographs and measurements taken by NIST staff, and from material properties taken from the FDS database.

The investigating team wanted to know how the opening of windows and doors had affected the dynamics of the fire. By using sophisticated modeling techniques, the investigators were able to run different scenarios and see the different computer predictions.  They could then match what the simulator showed with information they had collected from the scene and from witnesses.

Investigators identified what is referred to as the fuel package or fuel load that was involved in the fire, the total quantity of combustible contents of the space. NIST’s simulator was then plugged into a database of the heat release rates of different types of furniture and furnishings, expressed as British Thermal Units (BTUs) or Kilowatts (kW) per second.

The model divides the space involved in the fire into thousands of “cells.”  In the Cherry Road simulations, the cells measured just eight inches by four inches high.  Once the physical data was entered into the computer, it was able to model the conditions for each cell, and then combine all of them together to provide an overall simulation of the fire.

Investigators determined that the fire started near an electrical fixture in the ceiling of the basement, and that the actual fire may have taken several hours to develop to a flaming stage.  As the fire spread from the ignition source, first along the ceiling and then to other items in the basement, it first developed quickly but then depleted the supply of oxygen necessary for combustion.

This lack of oxygen had the effect of rapidly decreasing the heat release rate or energy being produced by the fire.  It was at this point, when the fire’s heat release rate was being constrained, that fire fighters made their entry on the first floor of the building.  However, and against some expectations, opening windows on the front of the townhouse on the first and second floors seemed to have had no noticeable impact on the fire development.

It was the breaking open of the basement door that created the firestorm.  The FDS calculations were that the opening of the basement sliding glass doors provided outside air into a pre-heated but under ventilated fire compartment, which then developed into a post-flashover fire within 60 seconds.

Some of the resulting fire gases flowed up the basement stairwell with a high velocity and collected in a pre-heated, oxygen depleted first floor living room with limited ventilation.  More precisely, the model showed that the superheated gases moved up the stairs at approximately 18 miles per hour.

As the townhouse was only 33 feet high, it meant that the extremely hot gases moved through the townhouse in less than two seconds.  F/F Anthony Phillips’ autopsy revealed that he died of “asphyxiation due to inhalation of superheated air, soot, and smoke.”  It some respects, it was remarkable that the loss of life wasn’t greater.

What makes the Cherry Road fire so important is that it was a catastrophic fire that took place in a relatively small area so that its fire dynamics were capable of analysis, using techniques at the forefront of forensic science.  Two facts were immediately clear.

  • First, it underlined how a relatively insignificant fire can become an inferno in a matter of seconds and that, when it does, flashover can engulf a whole building in a few moments.  Many of the lessons of the Cherry Road fire are now part of US fire training program. 
  • Second, the inferno was caused by breaking open the compartment within which the fire was contained.

 

From the NIST

Fire Safety Engineering Division  Building and Fire Research Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
NISTIR 6510

Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE, Washington D.C., May 30, 1999

Report by: Daniel Madrzykowski and Robert L. Vettori  April 2000

This report describes the results of calculations using the NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) that were performed to provide insight on the thermal conditions that occurred during the fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE, Washington D.C. on May 30, 1999.  Input to the computer model was developed from 3 sources; the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Reconstruction Committee, photographs and measurements taken by NIST staff during a June 3, 1999 site visit, and from material properties taken from the FDS database.

An FDS model scenario was developed that best represented the actual building geometry, material thermal properties, and fire behavior based on information from the Reconstruction Committee and Physical Evidence.  The results from this model scenario are provided with this report.  Results from an additional model scenario, which included the opening of the sliding glass door on the first floor prior to opening of the sliding glass door in the basement, are also presented.

The FDS calculations that best represent the actual fire conditions indicated that the opening of the basement sliding glass doors provided outside air (oxygen) to a pre-heated, under ventilated fire compartment, which then developed into a post-flashover fire within 60 s.  Some of the resulting fire gases flowed up the basement stairwell with high velocity and collected in a pre-heated, oxygen depleted first floor living room with limited ventilation. 

Introduction

Part of the mission of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is to conduct basic and applied fire research, including fire investigations, for the purposes of understanding fundamental fire behavior and to reduce losses from fire. 

On May 30, 1999 a fire in a townhouse at 3146 Cherry Road NE, Washington D.C. claimed the lives of two District of Columbia firefighters and burned other firefighters.  The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Reconstruction Committee requested the assistance of NIST for the purpose of examining the fire dynamics of this incident.  NIST has performed computer simulations of the fire using the newly developed, NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) and Smokeview, a visualization tool, to provide insight on the fire development and thermal conditions that may have existed in the townhouse during the fire.  This document describes the input and the results of the NIST FDS calculations.

Fire Summary

This account of the events relevant to the fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE is based on information provided to NIST by the Reconstruction Committee.  Shortly after midnight, on May 30th, 1999, occupants at 3146 Cherry Road, NE awoke to a smoke alarm that had activated in the residence.  The occupants went downstairs to the first floor, found hot smoky conditions, and exited the residence via the front door, leaving the front door open.  At 00:17:00 hrs, the first 911 call was received.  The first engine arrived on the fire scene in approximately 6 minutes.  At approximately 00:24:00, firefighters began entering the first floor via the front door.  Conditions on the first floor were described as “heavy smoke,” with thick black smoke coming from the doorway.  Within two minutes, the front window on first floor was taken out by firefighters to provide ventilation.  The window was removed from the inside, due to obstructions from security bars on the outside.  Firefighters were also opening the second story windows on the front of the house.  The occupants had left the second story windows on the backside of the house open.

Firefighters positioned by the sliding glass doors on the basement level, reported that the basement was fully charged with smoke and that upon arrival a few flames appeared briefly.  The sliding glass door was broken out in two stages.  First the right half was taken out at approximately 00:26:20.  Then the left side was removed approximately 20 seconds later, due to obstructions from security bars.  After the sliding glass door was broken out, firefighters entered the basement to conduct a search.  They reported that there were a number of small fires on the floor of the basement, and that the fires began to increase in size after the sliding glass door was opened.  The firefighters were ordered out of the basement as the fire rapidly increased in size.  The firefighters reported that a tunnel or path was open in the smoke that enabled them to find their way out of the basement to the exterior, just prior to the basement becoming fully involved with fire.  Within two minutes after entering the basement, flames from the basement extended up the backside of the townhouse.  Seconds later there was a report that a firefighter was down.  Firefighters that were working on the first floor reported that they felt an intense blast of heat prior to exiting the building.  Two of the firefighters working on the first floor, one positioned near the open doorway to the basement stairs and the other located near the sofa on the back wall of the townhouse, died from injuries caused by the fire.  A third firefighter, positioned between the two firefighters that died, survived the fire, but sustained substantial burn injuries.  

The post fire investigation determined that the fire started near an electrical fixture in the ceiling of the basement.  The basement had severe fire damage throughout, indicating a well-mixed, post-flashover fire environment.  The stairway from the basement to the first floor also showed signs of flame impingement on the ceiling and walls.  The door at the top of the basement stairs was open during the fire and had been partially burned away.  The basement stairway opened into the living room on the first floor.  The living room had significant deposits of soot throughout, with limited thermal damage.  Most of the paper on the gypsum board walls and ceiling remained intact and sofas in the room only showed signs of pyrolization or limited burning on the upper portions of the back cushions and top surfaces of the seat cushions.  Areas in the living room away from the basement door opening had less thermal damage.

NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator  (FDS) 

NIST has developed a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) fire model using large eddy simulation (LES) techniques [1].  This model, called the NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS), has been demonstrated to predict the thermal conditions resulting from a compartment fire [2,3].  A CFD model requires that the room or building of interest be divided into small rectangular control volumes or computational cells.  The CFD model computes the density, velocity, temperature, pressure and species concentration of the gas in each cell based on the conservation laws of mass, momentum, and energy to model the movement of fire gases.  FDS utilizes material properties of the furnishings, walls, floors, and ceilings to simulate fire spread.  A complete description of the FDS model is given in reference 1.

In large scale fire tests reported in [2], FDS temperature predictions were found to be within 15 % of the measured temperatures and the FDS heat release rates were predicted to within 20 % of the measured values [2].  For relatively simple fire driven flows, such as buoyant plumes and flows through doorways, FDS predictions are within experimental uncertainties [3].  Therefore the results are presented as ranges to account for this uncertainty.

Smokeview

Smokeview is a visualization program that was developed to display the results of a FDS model simulation.  Smokeview produces animations or snapshots of FDS results [4].

Estimated time that firefighters from Engine 26 & Engine 10 are burned on first floor

FDS Input

FDS requires as inputs the geometry of the building compartments being modeled, the computational cell size, the location of the ignition source, the ignition source, thermal properties of walls, furnishings and the size, location, and timing of vent openings to the outside which critically influence fire growth and spread.  The timing of the vent openings, Table 2, used in the simulation based on an approximate timeline of the fire fighting activities in Table 1

 Table 1.  Approximate Timeline Based on Reconstruction Committee Input

Incident Time

Actions

Simulation Time

00:17:00 First call reporting fire  
00:18:40 Second call – “fire in basement”  
00:23:00 Engine 26 on scene – “heavy smoke showing”  
00:24:00 Engine 26 and Engine 10 firefighters enter front door, Engine 17 layout 0 s
00:24:50 Battalion Chief 1 directs Truck 4 to rear 50 s
00:26:00 First floor front window removed 120 s
00:26:20 Basement sliding glass door half out   140 s
00:26:30 Firefighters from Rescue Squad 1 and Truck 4 enter basement 150 s
00:26:40 Basement sliding glass door completely out 160 s
00:26:50 Engine 17 in the rear, “fire small in basement” 170 s
00:27:20 Firefighters from Rescue Squad 1 and Truck 4 exit basement, “basement almost fully involved” 200 s
00:28:00 Estimated time that firefighters from Engine 26 and Engine 10 are burned on the first floor 240 s
00:28:40 Engine 17 in rear, “fire extending to first floor” 280 s
00:29:00 (End of simulation time) 300 s

 

           

Note: Direct comparison of simulation conditions with the actual incident conditions begin atapproximately 100 seconds of simulation time.GeometryThe floor plan of the basement and first floor of the townhouse are shown in Figures 1 and 2.  The two levels of the townhouse are modeled by a 10.0 m (32.8 ft) x 6.0 m (19.7 ft) x 5.1m (16.8 ft) tall rectangular volume.  For the FDS simulation this volume was divided into 76,500 computational cells.  Each cell had dimensions 0.2 m (7.9 in) x 0.2 m (7.9 in) x 0.1 m (3.9 in).  The placement and size of the interior walls, doorways, and windows were taken from the dimensioned floor plans drawn by personnel of the DC Fire and EMS Department.  FDS adjusts the dimensions to the nearest computational cell.  Therefore the cell size is the resolution limit of vents, openings, furnishings, or walls within the model.

 The cell size was selected to give the best approximation of the actual dimensions of the townhouse geometry.VentsThe basement was vented to the outside by a pair of sliding glass doors 1.7 m (5.6 ft) x 2.0 m (6.6 ft) high.  For the simulation, the door vent was divided into two parts.  The right half of the sliding glass door was opened at 140 s into the simulation and the left half was opened at 160 s into the simulation. The basement was open to the first floor by a 0.8 m (2.6 ft) x 2.0 m (6.6 ft) high doorway at the top of the stairs.  As in the fire incident, this door was fully open during the simulation. 

The front door to the first floor was fully open during the fire and the simulation.  The door was 0.9 m (3.0 ft) wide and 2.0 m (6.6 ft) high.  The front window on the first floor was 1.7 m (5.6 ft) wide and 0.9 m (3.0 ft) high with a 0.9 (3.0 ft) sill height. This window was opened at 120 s into the simulation.  The other opening to the outside from the first floor was a sliding glass door at the rear of the house.  This sliding glass door was located directly above the basement sliding glass door.  This door remained closed and intact during the entire simulation.The stairway opening from the first floor to the second floor was 0.9 m (3.0 ft) wide and 3.4 m (11.2 ft) deep. 

This vent remained open during the entire simulation due to the windows in the front and rear of the second floor being open.  The exact position of the open rear windows on the second floor is not known; therefore, the stairway opening was used to represent the assumed area of the open second floor windows.  The details of the second floor were not modeled in the simulation.At the time of the fire, there was no wind, therefore for the simulation it was assumed that openings to the exterior were at ambient pressure. Table 2.  Time of Ventilation Events for FDS Simulation

  Time of Event
Vent Initial Conditions 120 s 140 s 160 s
Front Door Open Open Open Open
Front Window Closed Open Open Open
First half of basement sliding glass door Closed Closed Open Open
Second half of basement sliding glass door Closed Closed Closed Open
Stairway door between basement & first floor Open Open Open Open
Stairway opening between first and second floor Open Open Open Open

      
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Material PropertiesThe ceiling of the basement was composed of wood fiber ceiling tiles attached to wood furring strips, which were attached to the bottom of open wood trusses.  Given the multiple surfaces in the ceiling floor system, several different approximations were used for the ignition temperature (320 °C to 390 °C) and the heat release rate per unit area (200 kW/m2 to 400 kW/m2).  The assumptions used for the basement ceiling materials are shown in Table 3.The walls of the townhouse were painted gypsum board, assumed 12 mm (0.5 in) thick.  The sub-flooring was plywood and was covered with carpeting in the living room area of the house.  The ceiling on the first floor was also painted gypsum board.  Several large furniture items were included in the scenario; a bookcase, bar, desk and sofa in the basement as well as a door and sofa on the first floor. The model inputs utilized for each material type are given below in Table 3 and the size of the furnishings are given in Table 4.Table 3.  Thermal Properties Data [1,4]
Material Thickness(m) Ignition Temperature(° C) Heat Release Rate(kW/m2) Thermal Conductivity  (W/m K) Thermal Diffusivity(m2/s)
Basement Ceiling 0.025 330 300 0.14 8.3E-8
GypsumBoard 0.013 400 100 0.48 4.1E-7
Pine 0.013 390 200 0.14 8.3E-8
UpholsteredCushion 0.10 370 700 0.20 1.2E-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 4.  Furniture Materials and Size

Item Material Size
Bookcase Pine 2 m wide, 0.3 m deep, 2.4 m high
Bar Pine 2 m wide, 1  m deep, 1.2 m high
Desk Pine 1.5 m wide, 0.75 m deep, 0.75 m high
Sofa Upholstered cushion 2 m wide, 0.75 m deep, 0.9 m high
First floor door to basement Pine 0.85 m wide, 0.05 m thick, 2.05 m high

 

  

 
 
 
 
 
Fire Simulation 1 – Reported Fire Events – Temperature, Velocity, and Oxygen Concentration Predictions
 
Figure 4 shows a perspective view of the three-dimensional townhouse simulation.  The basement level and first floor levels are shown with furnishings.  Figure 5 provides a side view of the townhouse.  The grid depicting the computational cell size is also shown.  The simulation results in Figures 6 through 15 have had all of the walls and other obstructions removed to provide a clear view.  The horizontal clear area is the floor between the basement and the first floor level.  The results are shown as a “slice” or a “plane” with a color bar that represents the corresponding numerical quantities.  The results presented are taken at 200 s of the simulation.  At that time, the heat release rate and the thermal conditions have reached a quasi-steady state condition.  These figures provide a snapshot of the calculated fire environment conditions that the firefighters may have been exposed to at approximately 00:27:20.Figures 6 and 7 show the plane of temperatures and velocities that align with the center of the first sliding glass panel that was taken out on the basement level.  This plane is located 3.4 m (11.2 ft) into the townhouse from the front of Figures 6 and 7.  The upper portions of the figures represent the kitchen area on the left and the living room area on the right.  In Figure 6, temperatures in excess of 820 °C (1500 °F) are shown throughout the basement, with the exception of the cool air entering the basement through the open sliding glass doorway at the right of the figure.  Similar hot gas temperature conditions exist in the living room area.  The maximum temperatures in the kitchen are in the 500 °C to 660 °C  (932 °F to 1220 °F) range. 
 
The velocity vector plot in Figure 7 provides gas flow direction as well as the approximate velocities.  The dominant flows in this plane are the fresh air entering the open basement doorway at approximately 4 m/s (10 mph) and the hot gas flow exiting the upper portion of the doorway at approximately 7 m/s (16 mph).Figures 8 and 9 show the plane of temperatures and velocities aligned with the center of the front door and the hallway, 1.4 m (4.6 ft) into the townhouse from the front of the figure.  The upper portions of the figures represent the hallway and living room areas and the lower portions represent the open area in the basement on the left and an area in the storage room (cooler temperatures) on the right.  Predicted temperatures in the open area of the basement are in excess of 820 °C (1500 °F), from the ceiling to the floor level in some areas. 
 
On the first floor, hot gases can be seen along the ceiling, cooling as the gases move from the back of the townhouse to the front.  Outside air at approximately 20 °C (68 °F) can be seen entering the front door from the left.  The gas moving into the townhouse, along the floor, from the front door increases from 180 °C to 260 °C (350 °F to 500 °F) by the time it reaches the back of the townhouse (right side of figure).The flow direction of the gases can be seen in Figure 9.  On the first floor, outside air is entering the lower portion of the open front doorway in the range of 4 m/s to 5.6 m/s (10 mph to 12.5 mph).  Hot gases are exiting the upper portion of the same doorway with maximum velocities in the range of 5.6 m/s to 6.4 m/s (12.5 mph to 14 mph).  Toward the rear of the townhouse on the first floor, hot gas flows from the basement doorway in excess of 8 m/s (18 mph).
 
Figures 10 and 11 show the plane of temperatures and velocities that align with the center of the basement stairway, 0.4 m (1.3 ft) into the townhouse from the front of the figure.  The temperature plot shows hot gases in excess of 820 °C (1500 °F) filling the stairwell, flowing out into the living room, across the living room ceiling and down the back wall.  The clear-notched area on the right side is the outline of the sofa.  Between the doorway to the basement and the sofa, the temperatures approximately 0.5 m (1.6 ft) above the floor, to floor level are in the range of 180 °C to 260 °C (350 °F to 500 °F). 
 
The areas near the floor where the temperatures were the highest, were near the doorway to the stairs and near the sofa on the back wall.  These locations correspond to the areas where the two firefighter fatalities were believed to have occurred.Figure 11 shows the effect of the stairway on channeling the hot gases up to the first floor.  The speed at which the fire gases flow up the stairway and across the ceiling of the first floor exceed 8 m/s (18 mph).  At these velocities, the travel time for the gases from the front of the basement (left side of figure) to the back of the first floor (right side of figure) is less than 2 s. 
 
Between the doorway to the basement and the sofa, the velocities from approximately 0.5 m (1.6 ft) above the floor to floor level are in the range of 0 m/s to 1.6 m/s (0 mph to 3.5 mph).  The right side of the basement shown is the storage area under the stairs.Figures 12 and 13 show oxygen concentrations.  Even though the previous temperature plots have indicted temperatures that are consistent with flaming conditions, that cannot be assumed.  In addition to fuel and heat, oxygen is needed for flaming combustion to be present.  These figures provide some insight on the amount of oxygen that was available in different parts of the townhouse. 
 
The upper, hot gas layers in the basement and on the first floor in the living room area contained less than 6 % oxygen.  These are areas where the fire may not have had enough oxygen to produce visible flames.  Figure 12 shows the slice aligned with the center of the right side of the basement sliding glass door.  Again the outside air can be seen entering the basement through the open doorway from the lower right side of the plot.  A thin layer of 16 % to 19 % oxygen can be seen close to the floor on the first floor. 
 
This airflow is coming from the front door.Figure 13 gives a view of the oxygen conditions along the centerline of the basement stairway.  The hot gases that are flowing up from the basement are oxygen depleted, ranging from 14 % to 16 % oxygen at the base of the stairs and decreasing to 6 % to 11 % oxygen at the top of the stairs.  The high velocity hot gas layer that flows across the living room ceiling and down the back wall of the townhouse (right side of figure) contains less than 6 % oxygen.  Given the oxygen depleted conditions, little if any flaming combustion would be taking place in the living room area at this time. 
 
The right portion of the basement represents the storage area under the steps.Figures 14 and 15 show the velocity flow patterns near the ceiling of the first floor and at approximately 1.6 m (5.2 ft) above the floor, respectively.  The velocities in front of the doorway to the basement are in the range of 8 m/s (18 mph).  Figure 15 shows the circulation of gases from the doorway to the basement, across the back wall of the townhouse and then out the front window.  Velocities flowing through the house in this U– shaped pattern range from 0.80 m/s to 4.8 m/s (2 mph to 11 mph) at this level.  These velocities coupled with the high gas temperatures will increase the rate of convective heat transfer to people or objects in that area.
 
Fire Simulation 2 – Opening of the Sliding Glass Door on the First Floor Prior to the Opening of the Sliding Glass Door in the Basement – Temperature and Velocity Predictions
At the request of the Reconstruction Committee, a second fire simulation was conducted.  All of the input to the second simulation was the same as the first, with one exception; the sliding glass door in the living room on the first floor of the house was opened at 120 s into the simulation.  In the basement, the results of the second simulation were similar to the first.  On the first floor the hot gases were not as confined as in simulation 1 resulting in cooler temperatures near the floor. Figure 16 shows the plane of temperatures that align with the center of the basement stairway, 0.4 m (1.3 ft) into the townhouse from the front of the figure.  The temperature plot shows hot gases in excess of 820 °C (1500 °F) filling the stairwell, flowing out into the living room, across the living room ceiling and down the back wall.  The clear-notched area on the right side is the outline of a sofa.  This hot gas ceiling jet is similar to the hot gas conditions shown in Figure 10.  The significant difference is in the region close to the floor.  Between the doorway to the basement and the sofa, the temperatures from approximately 0.6 m (2 ft) above the floor, to floor level are in the range of 20 °C to 100 °C (68 °F to 212 °F).  This is at least an 80 °C (176 °F) temperature reduction in this area with the open sliding glass doorway on the first floor.  Figure 17 shows the velocity field at the ceiling of the first floor.  Comparing this to Figure 14 shows that the velocity range is similar, approximately 8.5 m/s (19 mph) vs. 8 m/s (18 mph).  The flow pattern at the ceiling is wider for the second simulation because part of the flow stream is going out of the open sliding glass doorway. 
 
Summary
The NIST FDS computer simulation predicted fire conditions and events that correlate well with information from the Reconstruction Committee and the damage, or lack of damage, to portions of the townhouse.  The model simulated a fire that started in a combustible ceiling assembly in the basement of the townhouse.  The fire grew and spread across the ceiling and into other fuels in the basement until it exhausted the available oxygen supply in the basement.  While the fire’s heat release rate was being constrained by the lack of oxygen, firefighters made entry on the first floor of the building.  Venting of the windows on the front of the townhouse on the first and second floors had no noticeable impact on the fire development. However, the venting of the sliding glass doors in the basement increased the heat release rate of the fire very rapidly.  The FDS calculation indicates that the opening of the basement sliding glass doors provided outside air (oxygen) to a pre-heated, under-ventilated fire compartment, which then developed into a post-flashover fire within 60 s. 
The fire filling the basement forced high temperature gases (approximately 820 °C (1500 °F)) up the basement stairwell at velocities in excess of 8 m/s (18 mph).  The high velocity gas stream flowed into a pre-heated, oxygen depleted first floor living room.  The FDS predictions show the hot gas flow moving across the living room ceiling and banking down the back wall of the townhouse.  Between the doorway to the basement and the sofa on the back wall of the townhouse, the temperatures from approximately 0.5 m (1.6 ft) above the floor, to floor level are in the range of 180 °C to 260 °C (350 °F to 500 °F). 
 
These thermal conditions developed within seconds of the rapid fire growth in the basement.Even though the upper layer hot gas temperatures have predicted temperatures that are consistent with flaming conditions, that cannot be assumed.  In addition to fuel and heat, oxygen is needed for flaming combustion to be present.  The upper, hot gas layers in the basement and on the first floor in the living room area contained less than 6 % oxygen when the basement fire was fully developed and extending up the stairs.  These are areas, particularly the living room, where the fire may not have had enough oxygen to produce visible flames.A second NIST FDS simulation was performed.  The only difference was the opening of the sliding glass door on the first floor at 120 s of the simulation or 20 s prior to opening the basement sliding glass door.  The most significant difference in the predictions is in the region close to the living room floor.  Between the doorway to the basement and the sofa, the temperatures from approximately 0.6 m (2 ft) above the floor, to floor level are in the range of 20 °C to 100 °C (68 °F to 212 °F).  This is at least an 80 °C (176 °F) temperature reduction in this area with the open sliding glass doorway on the first floor as compared to the first simulation with the door closed. 
References
 
1.  McGrattan, Kevin B., Baum, Howard R., Rehm, Ronald G., Hamins, Anthony, Forney, Glenn P., Fire Dynamics Simulator – Technical Reference Guide, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD., NISTIR 6467, January 2000.2.  McGrattan, Kevin B., Hamins, Anthony, and Stroup, David, Sprinkler, Smoke & Heat Vent, Draft Curtain Interaction – Large Scale Experiments and Model Development, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD., NISTIR 6196-1, September 1998.3.  McGrattan, Kevin B., Baum, Howard R., Rehm, Ronald G., Large Eddy Simulations of Smoke Movement, Fire Safety Journal, vol 30 (1998), p 161-178.4.    McGrattan, Kevin B., Forney, Glenn P., Fire Dynamics Simulator – User’s Manual, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD., NISTIR 6469, January 2000.
 
Figures 
 
Figure 1.  Plan view of first floor
 
 
 
 
Figure 2.  Plan view of basement  

 

 Figure 3.  Heat release rate from FDS Simulation. 

Figure 4.  Perspective view of townhouse.

Figure 4. Animation (1.6 Mbytes) (click here)

  

Figure 5.  Grid layout in the xz plane.

Figure 5.  Animation (760 Kbytes) (click here)

  

Figure 6.  Temperature slice along basement sliding glass door, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 6.  Animation (530 Kbytes) (click here)

  

Figure 7.  Vector representation of velocity slice along basement sliding glass door, at 200 s of simulation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 8.  Temperature slice along front door, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 8.  Animation (1.3 Mbytes) (click here)

  

Figure 9.  Vector representation of velocity slice along front door, at 200 s of simulation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 10.  Temperature slice along centerline of stairway, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 10.  Animation (1.7 Mbytes) (click here)

  

 

Figure 11.  Vector representation of velocity along centerline of stairway, at 200 s of simulation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 12.  Percent oxygen along basement sliding glass door, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 12.  Animation (560 Kbytes) (click here)

 

 

Figure 13.  Percent oxygen along centerline of stairway, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 13.  Animation (1.1 Mbytes) (click here)

  

 

Figure 14.  Vector representation of velocity at the ceiling, at 200 s of simulation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 15.  Vector representation of velocity at first floor window, 1.6 m off the floor, at 200 s of simulation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 16.  Temperature slice along center line of stairway with first floor sliding glass door vented, at 200 s of simulation.

Figure 16. (1.1 Mbytes) Animation (click here)

  

Figure 17.  Vector representation of velocity at the ceiling with first floor sliding glass door vented, at 200 s of simulation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other LINKS

  • DCFD Engine 10 (E-10) REMEMBER ANTHONY “SAUCE” PHILLIPS HERE and HERE
  • Matt Miles Photography HERE
  • Hyattsville FD page, HERE
  • DCFD.com, HERE
  • NISTIR 6510 Report,  HERE
  • DCFD Cherry Road Incident Investigative Report, HERE
  • NIST Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE Washington D.C., May 30, 1999, HERE

 

 

 

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