Apartment Complex Under Construction: Rapid Deployment and Operations

Rapid Fire Extension is Evident due to the Unprotected/Exposed Framing

A three-story apartment building that was under construction caught fire†late this past week durinfgthe early†evening in Carson, California (LA County). †The fast moving fire rapidly extended†through an apartment building complex under construction and spread to a nearby mobile home park damaging at least 10 homes and forcing evacuations, according to published reports. There were no reports of injuries.

The flames engulfing the building site†at 21828 South Avalon Boulevard turned the working construction site into a 3-alarm fire shortly after 17:00 hours.

Over 100 firefighters from 40 companies responded and worked the greater alarm fire, with rapid and effective fire control attained in short order in the early evening hours.

Construction sites, especially those with exposed phased wood framing pose significant operational challenges and demands.

First arriving response companies and command must quickly determine the size and magnitude of any rapidly advancing fire and efficiency determine an aggressive action plan that must be deployed rapidly while immediately considering the need for additional resources.

Normally, offensive strategic and tactical measures are highly ineffective due to the need to place operating companies in advance positions that may have high risk parameters subjecting companies to unacceptable safety risks.

The need for rapid and highly mobile hose line placement that must be sized appropriately with flow and delivery for the fire magnitude precludes hand line placement and results in the need to place portable monitors, deck monitors and elevated master streams into operation.

Safety and accountability are high priorities at multiple alarm incidents involving a construction site.

Aerial View of the Primary Fire Complex and Mobile Home Park Exposures to the right of the image

The blaze was rapidly progressing out of control when the first fire units arrived about three minutes after the incident was reported, officials said. The first-in company requested additional alarms due to the fast movement of the fire and its intensity.

The three-story structure had more than 100 units and was being framed.† This open framing phase of construction is highly susceptible to fire exposure and ripid development and extension. The large volume of wood, coupled with the open spaces, allowed wind to blow through the structure and stoke the blaze, officials said. That radiated heat combined with wind gusts sent the fire into a nearby mobile home park. More than 139 mobile homes were evacuated. At least 10 homes in the park were damaged by flames.

The entire 139-unit mobile home park was evacuated after the fire and residents were not be allowed to return overnight. The other two senior living buildings on the property were also evacuated, but residents were being allowed back in late into the evening.

The total damage estimate was $3.1 million, with $2.5 million for the senior living center and $600,000 for the mobile home park.Investigators have ruled out arson in a fire that burned through part of a multi-story residential complex under construction in Carson, according to later reports.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the sheriff’s arson and explosives detail determined that the fire was accidental, although an exact cause will not be available, probably for several weeks, per the sheriff’s headquarters bureau.

The construction site which was part of a planned 150-unit luxury apartment building was set to open July 2012.

Rendering of the Complex


Related Photos

Firefighing operations at the Carson apartment building View all 30 photos

The cause of the fire was under investigations. See photos of firefighters battling the blaze in Carson.

  • The Los Angeles Times, Reports HERE.
  • KABC-TV has additional video and details HERE.
  • Fireground photo gallery HERE.


Fire Engulfs Carson Construction Site: MyFoxLA.com


Some Highlighted Operational Considerations (not inclusive)

  • Pre-Fire Plan Large Construction Projects
  • Understand the various Phases to a Construction Project and site and how they affect fire operations at the various stages; there is a difference
  • Identify and train for non-conventional Strategic and Tactical operational actions
  • Ensure predetermined multiple alarm resources are identified and greater alarms are established
  • Train your Company and Command Officers to†identify correct IAPs and†Manage†Construction site fires
  • Maintain an appropriate risk profile balance with operational needs; with personnel safety being foremost
  • Clearly establish multiple Safety Offices and establish geographical resources within the incident management system for reconnaissance, communications, oversight and focused safety monitoring
  • Know you water supply and system capabilities and limitations
  • Determine fire flow needs based upon construction phases, as these change over time as the building goes up. Match fire flow demands with resource availability (time of day gaps etc.)
  • Identify exposures (Physical structures and Civilians) and ensure they are calculated into the incident action plan at the right time, before they become immediate†identified needs or concerns
  • Companies shall maintain a conservative safety posture; this is not the time for overly aggressive firefighting- it is the time for smart firefighting that can be highly efficient with appropriate tactics and company officer supervision
  • Always consider collapse zones: partial or complete. Stay out of them! Be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness
  • Respect the wind; itís not going to help you
  • Consider current and projected weather conditions in your operational and tactical plans and assignments; plan ahead
  • Did I already say: Pre-fire Planning?
  • Be calculated in the placement of your apparatus, especially in larger scale incidents that are defined under greater geographical divisions; Think ahead
  • The fire usually consumes the available fuel load rapidly; going from a Huge fire, to one that is sometimes much more manageable; watch and control your exposures and degree of fire extension. Donít help to make the fire even bigger through ineffective and dysfunctional command and control
  • Anticipate, Project, Plan and Engage
  • Respect the Fire: itís not going to play by the regular rules of combat fire suppression and engagment as†you would expect to find in†finished and enclosed structures and buildings.


How prepared are you to address a rapidly developing fire in a building or construction site; as the first-due Company Officer or as the Commanding Officer?

Is your company, battalion or department capably trained and skilled to address this type of demanding incident operation?

Do you have any training or operational gaps?

Do you have any construction sites working in your first-due or greater alarm or mutual aid areas?† If so, then – Maybe you need to do any pre-fire planning…..?

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Chris Naum

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