On June 19, 2014, a 2–alarm fire broke out at the Vintage apartments just outside of the FLSA Houston office. The complex was an older development that at the time was constructed without fire sprinklers. With the fire spreading quickly, fire fighters attempted to connect their hoses to private fire hydrants on the property but…they soon realized all hydrants were out of service and had been for years.
The fire department was forced to run multiple hoses from the city water mains, quite a distance away just to access water—because the hydrants had not been maintained properly by the owner. Ultimately, 16 families lost their homes and, even worse, there was one fatality. With a fire every second counts.
With proper maintenance of the hydrants, lives and property could have been rescued.
Did You Know…
One-alarm, two-alarm, and three-alarm fires—or higher—are categories of fires indicating the level of response by local authorities, with an elevated number of alarms indicating increased commitment of resources. The term multiple-alarm is a quick way of indicating that a fire was severe and difficult to contain. This system of classification is common in the USA among both fire departments and news agencies.
A common misconception is that a “three-alarm fire,” for example, means that three firehouses responded to the fire. This is not the rule behind the naming convention. Some cities may use the number of firehouses responding for multi-alarm designations because that is the simplest way to determine an alarm number.
The most widely used formula for multi-alarm designation is based on the number of units (firetrucks for example) and firefighters responding to a fire; the more vehicles and firefighters responding, the higher the alarm designation.
Note: In most cities, a “unit” can be anything from a tanker or ladder truck to rescue vehicles to even cars driven by the chief and deputies.
With this unit/firefighter alarm designation, the initial dispatch is referred to as a “first alarm” and is typically the largest. Subsequent alarms are calls for additional units, usually because the fire has grown and additional resources are needed to combat it, or that the incident is persisting long enough that firefighters on scene need to be replaced due to exhaustion.
NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, 2014 Edition. §126.96.36.199 Dry Barrel and Wall Hydrants. Dry barrel and wall hydrants shall be inspected annually and after each operation, with the necessary corrective action taken as specified in Table 188.8.131.52.