On September 9, 1989, the Seattle Fire Department responded to the report of a fire in a lumber warehouse. On arrival, fire fighters found a large building with visible flames involving a 75 ft X 75 ft shed attached at the building's southwest corner. The fire quickly became a multiple alarm fire. A fire officer and a fire fighter who were in a smoky section of the main building became disoriented while looking for an area from which to attack the fire. Several circumstances caused the fire fighters to separate as they attempted to leave the area. The fire fighter was found and rescued by a fire fighter from another engine company, the officer was not able to escape; he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The building, which was scheduled for demolition, was a heavy timber structure approximately 295 ft X 180 ft and had been abandoned for about two years. The primary fuel was the structure; however, small amounts of combustible trash were scattered throughout the building. The piping for several dry sprinkler systems was still in place. Before this incident occurred, the main control valve for the water supply to all sprinkler systems had been shut off because one of the systems had been damaged.
The following factors appear to have contributed directly to the death of the fire officer:
• The inability of fire ground officers to account at all times for the location
of all personnel;
• The actions of fire fighters that failed to conform to safe fire ground
practices as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and
the International Fire Service Training Association, and as required by the
Seattle Fire Department;
• The inadvertent use of the wrong radio channel by two disoriented fire
fighters while attempting to let others on the scene know that they were in
need of help.