On the morning of January 4th, 1991, a
group of paid and volunteer firefighters
were eating a large breakfast at the station
when we recieved a call for a possible
church fire on Lytle Cove Road.
On arrival, heavy smoke was coming from underneath the shingles in most areas of the roof system indicating heavy fire involvement in the attic spaces. Vertical ventilation was started near the middle part of the T-Shaped church. Interior crews searched for fire extension on the main floor level but very little heat and smoke were found, then they proceeded to pulling ceiling. After the last cut was made on the roof, heavy fire vented from the ventilation hole and the roof made a sudden sag of a couple of inches. Firefighters quickly exited the roof and the mid-section collapsed within 1-2 minutes of the escape.
There was knowledge of the attic partitions and vertical ventilation operations were in progress above one of the other sections, however, the operations were stopped due to rapidly deteriorating conditions. That roof collapsed shortly after firefighters exited.
Lack of safe access for interior firefighting at this point resulted in more difficult suppression efforts. Certain areas were allowable for short range entries along with defensive attacks from windows in others without affecting one another. In all, there were 8 departments involved in fire suppression and water shuttle operations.
The cause of the fire was from an explosion in the combustion chamber of the furnace as shown by the breeched wall in the picture to the right. The explosion also caused damage to the Flu pipe causing the fire to travel from the crawlspace of the church, up through the wall and into the attic space accounting for the lack of detection of fire on the first floor by first interior crews.
The structure of the church was made up of three separate buildings that were originally barracks from the Juvenile Evaluation Center. Where the different buildings were connected together in the roof system, there were openings from one section to another which allowed fire spread from the attic system above the point of origin. The effects of ventilation from the location shown on the
drawing above did not allow normal or adequate ventilation because of the remaining parts of
walls between each section in the attic system.