Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fireground Southpoint Apartments

 Fire in the middle of the building

No major injuries but the building looks to be a total loss as fire departments from many, many surrounding towns joined AFD to put down a stubborn blaze at Southpoint Apartments, which had a pretty good head start before units first arrived on scene.

APD arrived first and assisted in getting people out of the burning building
 Tapping a hydrant immediately adjacent to the building

AFD two aerial platforms (Ladder 1, Engine 2) attack from above

Smoke was so thick it blotted out the sun

AFD Assistant Chief Lindsay Stromgren, incident commander, sizing up the smokey scene 

Video below was shot at 5:02 PM a little before the first AFD engine arrived


Anonymous said...

I had no idea! God bless the public safety personnel!

Anonymous said...

Great work and photos Larry. We heard the sirens, wondered what was up. Just hope no one was hurt.

Anonymous said...

Now an even bigger shortage of student housing in Amherst.

Dr. Ed said...

What I fought for actually mattered -- I made a fuss about hallway fire doors shutting -- in that building -- and if I hadn't (now a decade ago), a bad fire would have been a lot worse...

Ed was right -- I hate to say it in the midst of this human tragedy but what I fought for mattered....

Anonymous said...

I heard someone on the scanner, who I assume was an assistant chief, say many times that they needed manpower. Any idea what the staffing level was yesterday, or how many off duty firefighters showed up, and how quickly?

Anonymous said...

If they needed manpower, you'd have thought they'd send the cops down -- they're trained in first aid, have some common sense, and when your firefighters are dealing with heat exhaustion, a lot of the lugging, carrying & dragging hoselines doesn't require anything more than the ability to do what you are told and the trust that you will do exactly what you were told.

Lugging stuff isn't glamorous, but if it needs doing then it isn't beneath the police (or anyone else) to do it.

You have a 4-alarm fire, a major emergency, you are asking all the area communities to help -- and you don't send your own cops down to help? They have enough time (and spare manpower) to do a torch run?

No, they aren't firefighters and shouldn't be anywhere near or inside the burning buildings. But they are public safety employees of the same town and they really ought to have been down there -- it *was* a major emergency, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Ed, making false assumptions that the police weren't there assisting. Of course they were there doing their job.
Do you ever post anything factual or positive?

Larry Kelley said...

Police were first on the scene and helped ensure everybody got out safely .

Anonymous said...

Let me preface my remarks by saying that this comment will contain both facts and opinion. The facts are, well, facts. The opinions are my own and may not reflect those of the Amherst Fire Department or IAFF Local 1764.

At the time of the alarm AFD was staffed at our minimum of 7 firefighters. Of those 7, 2 members who were assigned to Engine-1 were engaged in an ambulance call, leaving only 5 firefighters to respond to this incident. This also resulted in the first due engine company (Engine-1, responding from the central station on North Pleasant St.) arriving at the fire with a single firefighter. Engine-2 arrived from their quarters on East Pleasant St. a short time later with 4 additional firefighters. Several civilians assisted firefighters in stretching a 4" supply line between the apparatus and the hydrant.

The Amherst Police Department responded with at least half a dozen officers. The first arriving officers provided assistance to AFD as they were able. Their role then shifted to crowd/traffic control and later investigation. The police officer who was transported to the hospital had suffered smoke inhalation which occurred as he attempted to insure the buildings had been evacuated. Any assertion that APD did not respond or did not provide assistance is inaccurate.

I know of 8 off duty full time firefighters who responded to this incident. There may have been others that I am unaware of. Two additional off duty full time firefighters who had a delayed response remained at the central station to act as guides for the mutual aid companies who provided station coverage during the incident. Finally there were several on-call firefighters who responded. The response of these off duty full time and on-call firefighters is always delayed as these firefighters must first respond to their stations from wherever they are, pick up their gear and apparatus, then respond to the fire.

These incidents are generally made or broken in the first 5 to 10 minutes. Given that the response of on call on off duty members will always be delayed, the question of whether this fire could have been more quickly contained had out staffing level been in line with national standards (NFPA 1710) remains. Although this fire was clearly well advanced prior to the fire department being notified,I believe the answer is yes (that is one of those opinions mentioned above). I base this opinion on what I witnessed as well as what I was told be those who responded on the initial alarm. A full crew on the first due engine would have resulted in a quicker attack on the fire. A single firefighter has no ability to begin any fire attack. More firefighters responding on the initial alarm would have resulted in more tasks being performed simultaneously (fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue, etc.)instead of successively. All of these tasks are required at every working fire and when performed at the appropriate time combine to limit fire spread and save lives and property. Thankfully there was nobody trapped at this fire. Had there been, the 5 firefighters would have been hard pressed to make a rescue. They would have certainly attempted to do so, and would have likely had to choose between fire attack and search and rescue. This would have placed them in an extremely dangerous position.


Jeff Parr
Amherst Firefighters
IAFF Local 1764

Anonymous said...

Relying on the response of off duty full time and on-call firefighters to the degree that we do in simply reckless (another opinion). Our off duty and on call members do not plan their lives around being called in. On-call firefighters all have full time jobs and family lives. Full time firefighters have lives away from the firehouse as well. This fire occurred on a beautiful summer Saturday evening. Where were you at the time the fire broke out? Were you in town or were you some distance away? Had you perhaps had an adult beverage or two on that beautiful afternoon? Were you solely responsible for child care that day? Perhaps you were at your full or part time job? Firefighters do all of those things too. Thus our ability to respond while off duty cannot be guaranteed. My own family activity happened to place me in Sunderland at the time of the fire. I had chosen not to partake in a beer or two at the barbecue and was able to get a ride with another firefighter, leaving my wife with the kids and car. If any of those things were different, and they well could have been, I would not have been able to respond to this fire.

In the end, the Amherst Fire Department remains dangerously understaffed. I say this despite the town manager's statement in the FY 2015 budget regarding public safety; "Calls for service continue to increase for Police and EMS", "no increase in authorized staffing is necessary or recommended" (see Larry's blog post "Who Ya Gonna Call"). This scenario could play out again today, tomorrow, or at any time. The situation regularly places both the residents and firefighters in danger and it needs to be addressed.

Jeff Parr
Amherst Firefighters
IAFF Local 1764