St. George Hotel Fire Report
LESSONS LEARNED AND REINFORCED
1. Updated pre-fire plans provide critical information regarding
the configuration and condition of buildings within a complex.
Pre-fire Plans had been developed for this area in the past but
may not have been up to date. The Incident Commander did not have
the information that three buildings had been consolidated into
one. This caused some confusion but did not significantly effect
the outcome of the incident. The standpipe in the fire building
was out of service. The Fire Department has a tagging system to
indicate that a standpipe or sprinkler system is out of service.
This system had been vandalized since the last inspection.
2. Walking all perimeters of the fire scene can provide information
regarding exposures and conditions, and assist in the effective
placement of firefighting resources. Because of the confusion
about the configuration of the buildings in the complex, the Incident
Commander sent a Battalion Chief to scout the area to obtain specific
information. This put an end to the inconsistent reports the Command
Post was receiving and allowed confident placement of resources.
3. Aggressive resource staging can minimize the loss and assist
with occupant location, evacuation and protection, as well as
improving firefighter safety. The Incident Commander stated that
whenever a problem came up he called an additional alarm. The
outcome of the incident was much more positive because the Incident
Commander readily brought additional personnel to the scene. Due
to the size and location of the fire there was great potential
for large loss of life and significantly more property damage
than actually occurred. The initial Incident Commander had knowledge
of what equipment was on the way as well as what equipment was
needed. Making special calls for specific equipment, such as extra
tower ladders, almost enabled extinguishment of the fire at the
second alarm level.
4. Specialized units contribute to an effective fire attack.
Many of the component parts of the Incident Command System were
preassigned in this fire. Comcord, Maxi-Water and the Safety Battalion
are examples of these components. These specialized units were
trained to assume responsibility for a
very focused and defined task. This well-defined area of responsibility
was assigned to the specialized unit. The Incident Commander was
confident that work expected from a unit was exactly the work
the unit expected to perform.
5. Pre-assigned radio frequencies and an orderly way to switch
to them are vital to success. One of the biggest problems in a
large incident is usually communications. By necessity, there
is a sizable volume of radio traffic. Dispatch or main frequencies
will quickly be overloaded if provisions are not made early in
an incident to organize radio traffic. By promptly establishing
two tactical and one command channel in addition to the dispatch
frequency, the ComCord maintained control of communications.
6. Radio discipline, regardless of the number of fire ground
radio channels available, should be emphasized by officers and
Operating 100 pieces of apparatus and 700 firefighting personnel,
most of which had hand held radios, on two tactical channels and
one command channel required discipline and vigilance. The command
officers had aides able to monitor tactical radio communication.
Companies kept their radio communications to a minimum so emergency
traffic and important information could be passed on
7. Gain control of the elevators early in the fire. Certain vital
building systems need special attention to assure safe operation
during a fire. Elevators are one of these systems. The elevators
were abandoned on the upper floors of the Tower Building early
on during the incident. As a result, subsequent companies had
to climb the stairs to reach their operating areas. When the problem
was relayed to a chief, a company was assigned to retrieve the
elevator and operate it for the duration of the incident. If the
elevators are controlled early, crews can safely use them for
transportation and they will be less fatigued when they reach
their operating areas.
8. Routine inspections and up-to-date pre-incident plans can
identify compromised fire protection systems. A lot of time was
spent by the first-in companies advancing to the fire floor believing
they would be able to operate from the standpipe. If the inoperable
state of the standpipe had been known, an alternative way of supplying
water to the fire floor could have been employed, saving valuable
time when it was most needed. The disabled
standpipe may have been found during a routine inspection. A pre-incident
plan must be continuously updated, as building conditions can
change. Inspections should be performed on a regular basis so
those changes can be reflected on the pre-incident plans.
9. Using the Department’s Incident Command System (ICS)
permitted this complex fire ground to be managed to a successful
conclusion without loss of life or serious injury to civilians
or firefighters. The first-in companies and battalion chief followed
the Department’s Standard Operating Procedures. ICS was
established from the beginning of the incident and functioned
through command changes, command post relocation and separation
of the fire ground into two branches, each with multiple sectors.
The experience and familiarity of the command and company officers
with ICS was evident during this incident. The large fire area
and congested exposures required a concentrated and coordinated
effort that effective ICS supports.
Back to Hotel Fires