Lessons Learned:Boston Box 4-281, August 2007

Findings, recommendations and lessons following the deaths of two Boston firefighters.


On 29 August 2007, a fire in a Chinese restaurant in Roxbury claimed the lives of firefighters Paul J. Cahill of Engine Company 30 and Warren J. Payne of Ladder Company 26. During initial interior operations as rapid fire progression took place (subsequently linked to duct and vent hood maintenance, construction and fireground ventilation).



The event took place approximately five minutes into initial operations and was described “sounding like a freight train” as fire engulfed the interior and vent out the structure’s front.

“Ladder Company 25’s Officer established Incident Command upon arrival and conducted an exterior size-up of the fire building. With fire showing from the roof and exposure concerns, Ladder Company 25’s Officer ordered a second alarm and went into a fast interior attack mode in an attempt to quickly extinguish the fire. Ladder Company 25 raised its aerial ladder to the left front A side of the fire building and the roof man ascended the aerial ladder and started roof ventilation operations. Ladder Company 25’s Officer, along with his open up and rake man, entered the fire building through the front door on Centre Street and conducted a primary search for building occupants. The primary search found the restaurant to be empty and it was later determined that four employees had self evacuated after discovering the fire in the kitchen.”

“Engine Company 30 ran 100 feet of four inch feeder line and connected to the hydrant located opposite 1725 Centre Street. Engine Company 30’s pump operator and hydrant man assisted each other with dressing the hydrant in preparation for supplying water. Engine Company 30’s Officer and pipe man advanced 200 feet of one and three quarter inch attack line into the front door of the fire building through the dining room and into the kitchen. Engine Company 30’s pump operator
charged their hose line and the Officer along with his pipe man started playing water toward the fire located above the oven in the upper corner of the D side ceiling adjacent to the partition wall separating the kitchen from the dining room.”

Excerpt from Boston Board of Inquiry Report. Click on left image to read full report.

“At approximately 2112 hours, the L25 officer told the L25 rakeman to stay with the handline as he went to look for an exit in the rear of the structure. The E30 officer and Victim #1 started to hear popping from the ceiling as it was coming down upon them. The smoke and heat conditions intensified forcing them to the floor. The L16 officer moved from the C-side of the dining room over to E30’s handline due to the deteriorating conditions. The smoke conditions were now banking to the floor and the heat forced the L16 officer to his knees. At approximately 2113 hours, as he awaited for the additional handline, he heard a loud crack and within a minute heard a loud rush. He described it as sounding like a “freight train” as a rapid fire event took place blowing down the ceiling tiles and a fireball blew out of the front of the structure. He described that the dining room turned orange. He felt hot water falling on him from the E30 handline in the kitchen.”
Excerpt from NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation Report. Click bottom image to read full report.

Read. Learn. Live.

Click image for WCVB report and interview.

Images: Two Boston Firefighters Killed Battling Four-Alarmer in West Roxbury, Four Injured (Courtesy FirefighterNation.com/ Steve Walsh)

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