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Midtown Manhattan Mid-afternoon Blaze

March wasted no time coming in like a lion in New York City. In the wee hours of March 1, the first major fire of 1996 resulted in the dispatch of 41 engines and 28 ladders to fight a fire at 525 8 Ave. The building was a 6 story brick non- fireproof construction measuring 60 x 80. The first floor was used as a Chinese restaurant and at the time of this writing, the fire is believed to have started there due to a broken gas line. The 2nd and 3rd floors were commercially used, and the remainder of the building was vacant. There was no one in the building when fire broke out.

Smoke was pushing from every opening in the building making the concrete canyons of the Garment District of Manhattan a smoke filled labyrinth. Traffic and news copters filming the fire from the sky report that the plume reached altitudes of 2,000 feet. Fire buffs at the scene indicated that the fire was only visible in the rear of the building. Vehicular traffic became a nightmare in Midtown as 8th Ave was closed from 34th to 42nd Sts and 35th through 40th Sts were closed between 7th and 9th Aves.

The fire fighting effort was hampered by the building construction. The fire communicated via the duct work from the Chinese restaurant and eventually consumed the 2nd floor. Built in 1905, the ceilings were double hung, and the rear windows were bricked up making it a labor intensive effort. Eventually all interior fire fighting ceased. An exterior attack began using tower ladders from the front, and hand lines in the rear via windows and roofs of adjacent buildings. A large HVAC unit that spanned the roof of the fire building and an adjoining building became a source of concern as the realistic possibility of collapse became evident. To reduce the risk of collapse, the subway running under 8th Ave was ordered to reduce speed through the area.

No civilians were injured but 8 fire fighters suffered minor injuries. The most severe injury was a broken ankle when a fire fighter slipped on ice. The remainder were mainly smoke inhalation. The fire building most likely will be demolished.

In order to meet the demand for fire fighting companies, and to maintain adequate fire coverage, 2 staging areas were set up. Engine and ladder companies assembled at the quarters of engine 54 at W 47 St & 8 Ave. When additional companies were needed at the fire, they responded from this location. A second staging area was set up in Brooklyn at engine 279's quarters. This location was selected due to their proximity to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. As companies were taken from engine 54, they were replaced with those from engine 279. This gave the Manhattan dispatchers the ability to continue to supply companies to the fire without seriously affecting remaining fire coverage. The only borough that did not supply companies was Staten Island.

This fire is officially a 6th alarm. In reality it was a 10th alarm with an extra engine and 15 extra ladders.

66 - 55+ - 725
0324 BOX TRANSMITTEDE026 E034 L024 L021 BC09 RS01
0329 10-75E001 E065 BC08
0334 S/CDC02
0336 PROGRESS REPORTWE HAVE A HEAVY SMOKE CONDITION ON THE
TOP FLOOR. TRANSMIT A SECOND ALARM.
0336 2-2E054 E003 E021 E014 L004 L007 BC07
FC01 E009 ST01 SB01 TS01 RH03
0339 S/CL002 L003
0350 PROGRESS REPORTWE HAVE FIRE ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF A 6 STORY BRICK 60 X 80 USED AS A CHINESE RESTAURANT. REQUEST CONSOLIDATED EDISON FOR A GAS
PROBLEM. DOUBTFUL WILL HOLD.
0353 3-3E016 E023 E008 E018 BC06
E207 MW01 E284 ST03 MK01
0358 S/CBC02 BC04
0404 PROGRESS REPORTHEAVY FIRE ON THE FIRST AND SECOND FLOOR
REAR. HEAVY SMOKE CONDITION THROUGHOUT.
A TOWER LADDER IS SET UP, BUT NOT YET IN
OPERATION. BACKING UNITS OUT TO VENT THE
BUILDING.
0415 S/CL009 L015
0424 PROGRESS REPORTFIRE ON THE FIRST FLOOR KNOCKED DOWN.
HEAVY FIRE AND SMOKE ON THE SECOND FLOOR. SEARCHES ARE IN PROGRESS.
0425 PROGRESS REPORTWE HAVE FIRE IN THE WALLS OF THE SECOND
FLOOR, TRANSMIT A FOURTH ALARM.
0426 4-4E005 E040 E033 E055
0428 S/CL018 L025 BC01
0444 PROGRESS REPORT6 LINES STRETCHED AND OPERATING. 1 TOWER
LADDER OPERATING. HEAVY FIRE ON THE SECOND FLOOR. MAKING SLOW PROGRESS DUE TO
EXTREME HEAT.
0456 5-5E074 E022 E039 E024
0500 S/CL035 L020
0506 S/CRH02
0520 S/CL023 L011 BC12 BC32
0527 S/CL026 L016
0529 S/CL001 L006
0531 PROGRESS REPORTSTILL HAVE HEAVY FIRE ON THE SECOND FLOOR. SEARCHES ARE BEING DELAYED DUE TO DOUBLE HUNG CEILINGS AND BRICKED UP WINDOWS IN THE REAR.
0548 PROGRESS REPORTTRANSMIT A SIXTH ALARM CONSISTING OF 3
ENGINES AND 2 TRUCKS.
0548 6-6E259 E204 E015 L010 L015
0601 PROGRESS REPORTSPECIAL CALL A 95 FOOT TOWER LADDER AND
HAVE THEM REPORT AND OPERATE ON THE
EXPOSURE 2 SIDE OF THE BUILDING.
0601 S/CL131
0609 PROGRESS REPORTALL MEMBERS HAVE BEEN WITHDRAWN. GOING TO AN EXTERIOR ATTACK. 3 TOWER LADDERS OPERATING. A FOURTH TOWER LADDER IS BEING SET UP. 1 HAND LINE OPERATING FROM EXPOSURE 3.
0612 S/CL045
0615 S/CE044
0621 PROGRESS REPORTSPECIAL CALL A 100 FOOT TOWER LADDER AND 2 ADDITIONAL ENGINES.
0621 S/CL014 E006 E258
0643 S/CBC35 BC11
0656 S/CBC50
0733 S/CRS04
0750 S/CE325 E289 E252 E206
0803 S/CBC12
0831 S/CE250
0838 PROGRESS REPORT5 TOWER LADDERS OPERATING IN FRONT OF THE FIRE BUILDING. 1 TOWER LADDER AND 3 HAND LINES OPERATING FROM THE EXPOSURE 3 SIDE, AND 4 HAND LINES FROM THE EXPOSURE 4 SIDE.
0909 S/CE010
0916 S/CL012
0918 S/CL024
0934 S/CE025 E224 E262 E294 E043 E073 E037 E093
0942 S/CBC52 BC26 BC16 BC31
0947 S/CDC01
1052 S/CL152 L119 L033
1054 S/CSQ01
1118 PROGRESS REPORTPROBABLY WILL HOLD
1131 S/CL035
1230 S/CE055
1332 PROGRESS REPORTUNDER CONTROL