I was a senior in high school when the fire at Philadelphia's One Meridian occurred. It's impact for me, at that time, was solely that a friend of mine who worked there during summer vacation wouldn't be returning to his summer position. I was still two years away from joining the Fire Service, and had no idea the impact that this tragic event would have on the way we fight high-rise fires today.
Fire escapes featuring floor numbers clearly marked and how many floors to the roof or ground floor? Commonplace to me, but not so in 1991. Increased pressure reducing valve awareness--one critical factor impacting the fire fight at One Meridian--resulted from this fire. And maybe most significant is the presence of sprinklers on every floor of a high-rise building. Again--all commonplace to me but not so in 1991.
Joining the the Fire Service two years later, I was far too green to understand just what this fire meant. To me, it was a tragedy. I focused on how to best develop my skills to avoid a similar fate, yet was completely unaware of the code/regulation shifts that were occurring in cities nationwide.
This fire is part of any high-rise firefighting class today, much like Hackensack is held up as the case study for the dangers of bowstring truss roofs. I mourn the loss of our three fellow firefighters, but I am grateful for the lessons learned from this incident and the changes it brought about in fire codes across our nation. The greatest part of our service is our ability to learn from both our tragedies and our triumphs and forge ahead, breaking new ground at every stop.