August 16, 2023 01:20
At 9:37 pm on August 15, 2023, PF&R crews were dispatched to a reported church on fire in the Cully neighborhood. Two callers reported heavy fire coming from the roof. En route, crews had limited information as to whether the structure was occupied and strategically positioned their apparatus to prepare for the need for multiple fire hydrant water supplies, given the large volume of fire and the potential need to supply water to multiple high volume aerial ladder streams, also known as “ladder pipes.”
On their arrival five minutes after being dispatched, the first arriving crew found a two-story church with a basement, constructed entirely of wood, with heavy fire showing from the roof and the rear of the structure. The church had a heavy fire load, as it was used for storage for a newer construction church next door. The first-in crew immediately went to work attacking the fire with hand lines until the first battalion chief arrived on scene, assumed incident command, and pulled crews out of the building at 9:47 pm due to the heavy fire volume and roof collapse danger. One minute later, the incident commander called a second alarm, bringing more engines and trucks to the scene to assist in extinguishing this sizable fire.
Fire attack operations then shifted from offensive to defensive mode, with crews attacking the fire from the exterior with hand lines and then multiple ladder pipes. To supply these ladder pipes, which can release over 1000 gallons per minute of water, the incident commander directed three engines to hook up to three separate hydrants to provide the necessary water supply.
At 9:48 pm crews reported fire impingement to structures on either side of the fire-involved church, with the potential for fire extension to both a restaurant to the east and the newer church to the west. To thwart this potential fire spread to these adjacent structures, the incident commander directed crews to position hand lines on both side of the fire building, successfully stopping any fire spread to these other structures.
At 9:55, crews reported that the back side of the church had partially collapsed, with the left side of the church partially collapsing three minutes later. The collapses allowed for direction of the ladder pipe water streams more precisely into the seat of the fire and the fire was largely extinguished approximately 10 minutes later. The incident was recalled with some fire companies released from the scene at 10:20 pm.
A total of 8 engines, 3 ladder trucks, 3 chief officers, one rehab unit, and one investigator responded to this 2nd alarm fire, bringing the total number of PF&R responders to 52. We were assisted by PPB who provided traffic control and PGE who assisted with cutting power to the fire building.
There were no injuries on this fire and an investigation is underway by PF&R’s Fire Investigations Unit; however, it could be some time until the investigation is complete due to the unstable structure.