A two-story office building, which had no fire alarms or sprinklers, was heavily damaged by a fire that began in a concealed roof void and spread undetected until it was discovered by a passerby at 5:31 a.m. Firefighters arriving five minutes later found low-hanging smoke covering the roadway near the building. During the fire officer’s initial size-up, he reported smoke coming from the roof and visible through the glass on the second floor. Using a thermal imaging camera, he also noted significant heat build-up near the ceiling and roof.
Crews advanced a hose line up a stairwell to the second floor, where they encountered heavy smoke and saw an orange glow near the floor. A quick blast of water knocked the fire down, but visibility dropped sharply as the smoke increased. When firefighters heard what sounded like a collapsing roof, they retreated and called for ventilation.
Using a positive-pressure fan to clear away the smoke, firefighters laid additional hose lines and pulled down the ceiling in an attempt to locate the seat of the fire. As they moved toward a corner of the building, they found fire at the ceiling. A glued, laminated ceiling beam had partially collapsed, and fire consumed an office. Firefighters’ attempts to knock the office fire down were unsuccessful.
Crews had just changed their air cylinders and returned to the building with larger hose lines when the incident commander ordered everyone from the building. Once everyone was accounted for, the commander ordered all hose lines to be positioned defensively. By the time the fire was finally brought under control several hours later, nearly the entire roof had burned off or collapsed into the second floor. Portions of the second floor also collapsed into the first floor.
Investigators discovered that the fire began in the ceiling above an office, but they couldn’t determine the cause of the fire due to the extent of damage. The building, valued at $2 million, and its contents, valued at $750,000, were destroyed.