NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 76

Firewatch
barge and place it on the shore, but the
fire had already spread to other vehicles and began to spread further.
Fire department investigators
identified puncture holes in the large
tanks described by the crane operator,
and determined that fuel or accelerant inside the tanks was ignited by a
spark when the crane jaws grabbed the
vehicle.
Damage to the barge was estimated
at $400,000. No damage was reported
to the seawall or scrapyard property as
a result of the fire.

Residential
MASSACHUSETTS
Smoking materials suspected in
fatal apartment fire
One man died in an early evening fire
that started in the bedroom of his thirdfloor apartment, possibly from smoking
materials.
A second occupant of the unit and
other building residents were able to
escape the fire, but the victim remained
behind to try to extinguish the fire himself, according to fire department reports.
Firefighters arrived shortly before
7 p.m. to find heavy fire venting from
windows on the third floor of the threeunit residence. Crew members learned
from the evacuated residents that one
occupant was still inside the structure
on the top floor.
As crews attacked the fire from outside, interior teams made their way to
the third floor, where they were able
to locate the occupant in a bathroom,
unconscious. Crews transported the
occupant outside, but he later succumbed to his injuries.
News reports indicated that the main
body of fire was extinguished by 7:30
p.m., with firefighters from nearby
communities providing mutual aid.
Investigators determined that the
fire started on a carpet and bedding

materials in the victim's bedroom and
that smoking materials were the most
likely source of ignition.
The building was equipped with
hardwired smoke detectors in common
stairways at the front and rear, with
battery-operated smoke detectors in the
units. However, investigators reported
that smoke detectors on the third floor
had been removed.
Fire department reports indicated
that the victim had asked his brother
for help in extinguishing a fire that
had started in the bedroom, but that
the fire grew rapidly. The brother was
driven back by fire and smoke while
making a rescue attempt.
The structure was a wood construction, but no additional details were
available. The fire caused an estimated
$150,000 in damage to the building,
valued at $800,000.

MICHIGAN
Electrical overload blamed for
camper fire that kills two children
A midmorning fire in a camper that
claimed the lives of two children was
caused by an overloaded electrical
system, according to fire department
investigators.
News reports indicated that the
camper was being used as a temporary
shelter while a manufactured home
nearby was undergoing renovations.
The fire department was dispatched
to the scene at 10:30 a.m. following a
phone call from the father, who was outside the camper when the fire broke out.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the
fire upon arrival, but the camper was
fully involved in flames and there was
no chance of saving the children.
According to investigators, electricity
for the camper's electrical system was
being supplied by a second camper. The
fire started when heat from the overloaded electrical system ignited wooden
material in the kitchen area.
The fire was detected by the father
while he was working on a vehicle

and saw smoke and fire on the camper's exterior. He was able to pull a
third child out of the camper but
flames and heat prevented access to
the bed area where the two victims
were located.

WISCONSIN
Hoarding conditions slow firefighter
response at fatal home fire
Firefighters responding to a late afternoon house fire that claimed the life
of an elderly man were slowed by
hoarding conditions throughout the
residence, according to fire department
reports.
The fire department responded
to the scene shortly after 5:30 p.m.
following a phone call to 911 by a passerby who saw smoke coming from the
residence.
Upon arrival, crews found the house
fully charged with light smoke. The 911
caller was at the scene and informed
crews that he was a neighbor and
believed that the vehicle in the driveway was an indication that the owner
was home. He also said that the owner
ordinarily spent much of his time in
the basement.
Crews made a 360-degree circuit
of the residence and found a fully
involved fire in the basement and heavy
smoke on the ground floor. A police
officer who had been first to arrive
informed crews that he had tried to
kick in the front door, but stacks of
material behind it prevented the door
from opening enough for entry.
Firefighters initiated a transitional
attack on the fire at the rear of the
house, where fire was blowing through
two basement windows. As the attack
continued, additional crews started
opening windows from the exterior
to check for possible occupants, then
removed the front door and began
removing boxes and other material in
order to enter.
A rapid intervention team made
entry through the front door and found

FIREWATCH is a compilation of fire incidents involving a variety of occupancies and fire types. The intent of Firewatch is to illustrate the range of fire scenarios encountered by the fire service, present the challenges contained in those incidents, recount how the fire service addressed those challenges, and record the effectiveness of fire
protection systems, where such systems exist. The incidents are identified by NFPA's Research Group from fire reports submitted to NFPA by responding fire departments.
Some of the fire incidents that appear in Firewatch are augmented with details provided by media accounts.

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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

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