Medical Office Building Multiple Alarm Fire Leds to Fire Captain LODD

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A multiple 4-alarm fire took command of a medical office suite located in a five story non-sprinklered Medical Center Office Building in the City of Asheville, North Carolina on Thursday July 28, 2011.

The mid-day fire was reported on the fifth floor at 445 Biltmore Center medical offices and was found extending from exterior perimeter windows as arriving companies went to work.

According to published reports, companies encountered heavy smoke and heat conditions. As initial suppression operations were being conducted, coordinated search and rescue operations were assigned and being conducted.  AFD Capt. Jeff Bowen was among the first alarm assignment of firefighters to reach the building’s fire floor as unabated fire development and growth caused the perimeter windows to fail causing fire extension to the exterior and the induction of fresh air onto the fire floor. The intensity of the flame front and extension was evident as photographed out fifth-floor windows.

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During primary search and rescue operations, approximately 45 minutes into the operations Captain Bowen transmitted a mayday for reasons undetermined at the present time. Heavy smoke and pronounced heat conditions filled that top floor, where he and fellow firefighter Jay Bettencourt were conducting search efforts.  Command quickly directed efforts to manage the mayday with companies deployed to support the RIT and mayday. There were reported sixty fire fighters assigned the suppression and rescue operations for the multiple alarms. About 200 patients and staff were in the building at the time of the fire.

Captain Jeff Bowen, Asheville FDPreliminary information suggests that Captain Bowen went into cardiac arrest after succumbing to intense smoke and heat, the city said in a statement released on Friday. Firefighter Bettencourt was transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., for treatment. He was listed in critical condition Thursday night. Nine other firefighters were taken to the hospital in connection with the blaze. Six remained hospitalized late Thursday. Three were treated and released, according to Mission spokeswoman Merrell Gregory and published reports. Captain Bowen was a thirteen year fire service veteran and was a husband and father of three children. He was 37 years of age.

The Building comprising the occupancy at 445 Biltmore Center medical offices was occupied by the Cancer Care of WNC which had its laboratory and information and technology offices on the fifth floor.

The building was constructed in 1982 and was not required by codes to have a sprinkler system at the time of occupancy. Since that time, state code provisions have changed that mandate sprinkler system protection. There were no requirements for retrofitting according to published reports.

The five story building with non-combustible construction classification consisted of approximate 120,000 square feet of space with approximately 20,000 SF per floor level.  

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