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Fast Fire Stopped

A fast moving fire in a townhouse under construction in the south end of Kitchener, Ont., tested fire fighters.

December 7, 2007
By Gary Dinkel and William McIntyre

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28A fast moving fire in a townhouse under construction in the south end of Kitchener, Ont., tested fire fighters on May 11, 2005. On that day, Kitchener's fire dispatch received a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire in a townhouse under construction from a neighbour three houses down Doon Mills Road.

The caller related to the 9-1-1 operator that he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass and went outside to investigate what was happening. The upscale townhouse complex contained seven units and was approximately 80 per cent finished. There was a 2,500-square-foot single family home on the E2 side of the townhouses. Three purchasers of townhouses were only days away from taking possession and moving in.

Multiple townhouses fully involved
Pump 6, Pump 1, Aerial 4, Rescue 1 and Acting Platoon Chief Steve Usher responded to the call at 0215 hours. Pump 6 Captain Mike Reinhardt reported to dispatch upon his arrival that there were multiple townhouses fully involved with extension to the house on the E2 exposure. This prompted the dispatch of both Pump 4, which was assigned as the rapid intervention team (RIT), and BOX 690 Canteen volunteers.

Upon arrival, Pump 6 caught a hydrant on the way in and set up on the E1 – E2   corner of the townhouse. The quint's 50' Squrt was set up and flowed water on the house to try to knock down the heavy fire in the roof. Four of the seven townhouses collapsed into their foundations shortly after the arrival of Pump 6.

Pump 1 caught a hydrant and positioned their truck behind Pump 6.  Command was passed to Acting Platoon Chief Usher upon his arrival from Capt. Reinhardt, after a quick briefing. Then command advised all fire fighters that fire attack would be a defensive operation. A 2-1/2" handline and two 1-1/2" handlines were pulled from Pump 1 and three similar lines were pulled from Pump 6 to surround the E1, E2 and E3 sides of the building.

By this time, fire had extended into a forest behind the buildings and this bush fire had to be extinguished as well before it got too far back into the green belt. Aerial 4 caught a hydrant and set up on the E1 – E4 corner of the townhouses.

BOX 690 FD Canteen arrived on scene and set up a rehabilitation site for fire fighters to the north of the fire and a secondary site with A4 to the south. BOX 690 provides this service to fire departments in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

Pump 3 was dispatched to the fire and was instructed to respond from the south side of the fire to assist Aerial 4. Pump 4 fire fighters pulled lines from Aerial 4 and worked at extinguishing the fire on the upper level of the three townhouses that were still standing.

Rescue 1 fire fighters became the RIT team at this time. P3 caught a hydrant on their arrival and pulled additional lines to E1 and E3 sides of the townhouses.   

Station 4 and P3 crews darkened the fire in the townhouses at their end within 30 minutes of their arrival. After the fire in the roof of the house had been knocked down by P6's master stream, crews were positioned on the roof to extinguish the remaining hot spots.

Approximately an hour into the fire, "loss stop" was declared. Damage was estimated at $1,000,000. The middle townhouses burned to the foundation and the remaining townhouses were completely torn down and then rebuilt. The house on E2 sustained $175,000 in damage.
No one was hurt in the fire and the official cause has been listed as "undetermined."


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