High Rise Fire in Philadelphia – Essay Example

The paper "High Rise Fire in Philadelphia" is a good example of an essay on engineering and construction. A 38 story bank building the One Meridian Plaza in Philadelphia caught a fire on 23rd February 1991. The fire started in the 22nd floor to linseed oil-soaked rags. The fire department sent three hundred firefighters with modern equipment on the site. Three firefighters from Engine Company 11, Capt. David Holcombe, James Chappell, and Phyllis McAllister died in this incident on the 28th floor of the building. Loss of electric power, interruption of radio communication and the smoke along with poisonous gases were the factors which lead to the death of the firefighters. (FEMA, 1996) They were lost in the heavy smoke and ran out of the air in their cylinders. The intense heat from the burning floor penetrated the specific electric room which melted the cables, and electric power supply was totally lost. The firefighters had to operate in the darkness with suppressed equipment in their hands as the elevators were functionless. When the firefighters reached on the 21st floor, they saw the fire on the above floor. They tried to throw water by means of a hose line, but the water supply was missing. All this led the fire to develop furiously releasing an enormous amount of smoke, heat and poisonous gases. The firefighters attempted to leave the stairways to reach the 23rd and 24th floors, on which the fire had extended and a heavy smoke was moving down. A captain and two firefighters of engine 11 started to ventilate by breaking through the center stairs from the 22nd floor. They soon left the stairs but the heavy smoke disoriented them on the 30th floor. After a few moments, that the engine 11’s captain requested a permit from the command post to break the window through a radio message, the command was informed about his death by one of the firefighters. The two crew members got permission to break the window. Search teams from the ground reached up on the high floors. Even a helicopter conveyed a team on the roof of the 30th floor that was hidden in black heavy smoky clouds. The teams searched the floors even above the 30th floor. During these searches, the vision of the searchers was badly affected due to the smoke and thermal drafts. The helicopter crew, with the help of help searchlight, saw a broken window on the 28th floor and the rescue team identified the dead firefighters there. (FEMA, 1996)