Lessons from the Fireground: FDNY Lt. Howard Carpluk, Jr., and FF Michael C. Reilly August 27.2006
Box 33- 2797 1575 Walton Avenue, Bronx, New York
On August 27, 2006, FDNY Lieutenant Howard Carpluk, Jr., and FF Michael C. Reilly died in the line-of-duty after the floor they were operating on during fire suppression operations collapsed at a Type (Class) III commercial structure fire in the Borough of the Bronx, New York.
At approximately 1230 hours, companies were dispatched to a report of fire in a one story, class III, non-fireproof structure, measuring approximately 45-feet wide and 65-feet in length.
The front of the structure had a double glass door entrance flanked with large store front single-pane windows. The structure had a flat roof with several large air conditioning units mounted on top. The structure contained three separate occupancies. The store cellar could only be accessed via an interior trap door and was primarily used for the storage of merchandise.
The victim’s engine was dispatched at 1236 hours as an additional unit alarm and arrived on the scene at approximately 1240 hours.
1230 hours dispatch – Initial dispatch included:
- Engine 42 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters);
- Engine 43 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters);
- Ladder 44 (Lieutenant (Lt #1), fire fighter/driver, fire fighter#2 (ff#2) and three fire fighters);
- Ladder 59 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters);
- Battalion 17 (Battalion Chief (BC #1),Initial incident commander (IC), and a fire fighter/driver);
- Engine 46 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters); and
- Engine 92 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters).
1234 hours dispatch –
- Squad 41 (Lieutenant (Lt#2), fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters);
- Rescue 3 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and five fire fighters);
- Battalion 19 (Battalion Chief and fire fighter/driver);
- Ladder 27 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and four fire fighters);
- Division 6 (Acting Deputy Chief (Incident Commander) and a Division Aid).
1236 hours dispatch –
- Engine 75 (Lieutenant Carpluk), fire fighter/driver, fire fighter Reilly, fire fighter #1 (ff#1) and two fire fighters);and
- Ladder 33 (Officer, fire fighter/driver and three fire fighters).
At approximately 1251 hours, Lt. Carpluk, FF Reilly and fire fighter #1 advanced a 2 ½-inch hand line through the front of the structure and down an aisle toward the rear of the store. The fire was located in the rear interior of the structure (discount store) that sold a variety of numerous small household commodity items.
- Approximately three minutes later, the structural members supporting the floor directly below the victims failed.
- The V-shaped collapse of the floor caused the operating company and other personnel to fall into the basement and shelving stocked with merchandise to fall in on top of them.
Multiple MAYDAYs were transmitted and the fire fighter assist and search team (FAST) was deployed to the front of the structure where they assisted in the rescue of numerous members who had been operating in the interior of the structure at the time of the collapse.
A Battalion Chief, a second Lieutenant and another fire fighter were freed from the debris. At approximately 1415 hours, Lt. Carpluk was removed from the debris in the basement and transported to the hospital. He died the next day as a result of his injuries.
At approximately 1435 hours, FF Reilly was removed from the basement and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased as a result of his injuries.
At approximately 1237 hours, L-44 crew members removed the front windows and glass doors of the discount store. E-42 crew members stretched a 150-foot 2 ½-inch hand line to side A of the structure and began their attack on the fire from the sidewalk.
The Lt. of L-44 stepped inside the doorway with a thermal imaging camera and reported fire in the rear of the structure from floor to ceiling.
The Battalion Chief radioed Central Dispatch and requested a 2nd alarm. BC#2 arrived on the scene and was assigned to check on side B of the building. Squad-41 arrived on the scene and was assigned to perform roof operations (vertical ventilation) and to check side B for fire extension. With no visibility on the roof, the Lt. of Sq-41 used his thermal imaging camera and observed several fire fighters successfully ventilating the roof which allowed fire fighters on the ground to advance one of the two hand lines into the structure where they continued their attack on the fire.
Lt. Carpluk’s engine arrived on scene at approximately 1240 hours. At this time Rescue-3 was sent to the roof. At approximately 1244 hours, D-6 assumed incident command and requested a roof size up. L-44 reported fire in the cockloft.
At approximately 1248 hours, D-6 reported that 4 lines were operating and there was fire in the cockloft. L-59 reported a hole in the roof at the back of the store and D-6 called for everyone off the roof. Sq-41 reported that the roof was getting soft and that members were backing off the roof. BC#1 called for everyone off the roof. Sq-41 and BC#2 confirmed that everyone was off the roof.
At approximately 1251 hours, Lt. Carpluk, FF Reilly and a third firefighter advanced a 2 ½-inch hand line through the front of the structure and down an aisle toward the rear of the store. A minute later, a Battalion Chief and a second Lt. followed the hand line to monitor the interior conditions.
- At approximately 1254 hours, the structural members supporting the floor directly below the victims failed.
- The V-shaped collapse of the floor caused Lt. Carpluk and FF Reilly to fall into the basement and shelving stocked with merchandise to fall in on top of them.
- In addition, two additional firefighters, the second Lt. and the Battalion Chief were caught in the debris in the middle of the collapse
Post incident investigation revealed the structural members had severe rot at the base of the timber columns. Additionally, alterations had been made to the floor system that were non-uniform and not to code.
D-6 called for the fire fighter assist and search team (FAST) to the front of the structure. Several MAYDAYS were heard at this time. At approximately 1255 hours, D-6 requested 2 additional Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support units and for all crews to back out for a roll call.
At approximately 1300 hours, a third alarm was transmitted. Again, several MAYDAYS were heard and believed to have come from victim #1. At approximately 1301 hours, Sq-41 entered the exterior sidewalk doors to the basement with a search rope. Sq-41 encountered about a foot of water on the basement floor.
Both Sq-41 in the basement and the FAST team that entered from the first floor encountered difficulty getting to the victims due to many collapsed structural members and to the large volume of goods in the retail structure.
There were also numerous containers and slippery substances on the floor. For approximately the next 15 minutes, fire fighters removed debris and searched for the missing fire fighters.
- At approximately 1325 hours, R-4 was in contact with the Lieutenant Carpluk. At approximately 1331 hours, the Lt. informed R-4 that his nozzle man, FF Reilly was underneath him.
- At approximately 1337 hours, the FAST team extricated a second from the debris. At approximately 1349 hours, a fast pak (oxygen cart) was called for Lt. Carpluk.
- At approximately 1350 hours, Carpluk was extricated and was placed on the immobilization board (stokes).
- At approximately 1354 hours, the Battalion Chief was extricated and removed to the street. At approximately 1415 hours, Lt. Carpluk was removed from the rubble and debris in the basement.
- At approximately 1417 hours, the Lt. was removed from the building and transported to an area hospital where he died the next day as a result of his injuries.
- At approximately 1419 hours, FF Reilly was found unconscious and had to be extricated. Both a fast pak and stokes were employed. At approximately 1435 hours, FF Reilly was removed from the basement and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 1517 hours.
Make the time to read the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Report F2006-27 http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face200627.pdf
Review and apply the lessons from this incident to your company, station, battalion or department. Type III buildings of ordinary (masonry and wood) construction present predicable performance characteristics on the fireground, which when coupled with building age and deterioration, alterations and renovations and occupancy use changes over their lifespan; compound the operational demands, risks faced by operating companies and in the management of incident parameters by commanders.
An archived 2015 Taking it to the Streets radio podcast on Firefighternetcast.com provided operational insights and comparative discussions and dialog on this the FDNY Walton Ave fire and the 2009 Genesee Street Fire in Buffalo, New York that also resulted in a double line of duty death of a Buffalo (NY) FD Lieutenant and Firefighter.
We’ll be posting the link and download from the 2015 archives of a Taking it to the Streets: Buffalo, Bronx and Basements Program up soon here on FGL and on our Twitter @CommandSafety and Buildingsonfire Facebook page.