Worcester: Reinforcing Lessons Learned

Flames breaks through the roof of the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, 123 McKeon Road during a 3-alarm blaze Monday March 22, 2010. (Rick Cinclair / T&G Staff Photo) Worcester Telegram & Gazette <strong>Note the vacant building placard in the lower right corner</strong>.

Flames breaks through the roof of the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, 123 McKeon Road during a 3-alarm blaze Monday March 22, 2010. (Rick Cinclair / T&G Staff Photo) Worcester Telegram & Gazette Note the vacant building placard in the lower right corner.

On Monday a three-alarm fire broke out at a vacant Worcester Massachusetts factory complex. The blaze burned through the night and into Tuesday morning before being fully extinguished. Noteworthy of the incident is the fact the no firefighters were seriously injured during operations. On December 3, 1999 the Worcester Fire Department lost six men while battling a fire in a vacant building. The initial efforts to go inside were based on the assumption that the structure might be inhabited by vagrants. One of the many recommendations that followed the tragedy was to implement a vacant building marking system to alert firefighters of specific building conditions and dangers. Eleven years later the recommendation still has value. The former Washburn & Moen factory, owned and maintained by the city, was in the process of being redesigned as a visitor center by a four-way partnership. Despite the city’s effort to keep the building secure, human behavior is implied as being the most probable cause.

Take the time to find out if your municipality has a listing of vacant and abandoned properties. Use recommended marking systems to warn your firefighters of the dangers inside these buildings. Vacant buildings generally don’t spontaneously ignite. Most of the time it requires human initiative, either criminal such as arson, or well-intentioned such as a warming barrel. Identifying and labeling the hazards will help to refine your initial strategy and primary search.

Related
Visitor Center Blaze Ruled Arson, Worcester Telegram and Gazette
Firefighters Battle Blaze at Worcester Building, WHDH
X-rated Firefighting Carey, Backstep
The Triangle of Solid Standard Operating Procedures, LeBlanc, Backstep
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1 Comment

  • Ron Ayotte says:

    The placard on the corner of the building indicates limited interior operations if conditions warrant. In this case, conditions didn’t allow for that.

    Massachusetts enacted building marking in the state’s fire prevention regulations after the W6 fire.

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Comments
Bill Schnaekel
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Chief Ayotte, Thank you, not only for your kind words but your informative response. You had stated that it was a judgement call as to whether or not the initial arriving company officer conducted a quick primary search on marked vacant buildings. I'm curious, would that same officer face disciplinary actions if that were the…
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Ron Ayotte
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Bill... your article is definitely something that should be brought up in every firehouse, whether it be in a formal class setting or an informal firehouse kitchen table discussion. I was my Department's liaison to and a member of the City's Code Enforcement Impact Team. Part of what we did was marking abandoned properties with…
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