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Voids and Large Spans Need To Be Recognized

38 years ago today August 2, 1978 on a warm summer morning in Brooklyn, New York a collapse occurred which claimed the lives of six FDNY members. Over thirty more were injured according to news reports and while the years have passed just like any other major event in our profession the members’ legacies and the lessons learned should never be forgotten but sadly most members many of whom weren’t even born have no clue as to what took place. If one of those is you today is your lucky day as I will briefly enlighten you and perhaps even give you some incentive on further study.

The fire started at 8:40 am in Waldbaum’s supermarket located at 2892 Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, workers were busy renovating the then twenty-six year old structure when they discovered fire in a mezzanine area. The building was of ordinary, Type III construction with exterior masonry construction with large span wooden timber trusses. The truss system supported an ornamental tin ceiling and 18 inches below that concealed space a conventional suspended acoustic ceiling tile panel system was present, the tin ceiling was attached directly to the bottom cord of the truss system. The large mezzanine area was located along the D side and access through the truss loft area was accessible through man-doors at the plane of each truss, (see animation from Chris Naum buildingsonfire.com).

There are numerous accounts located on the internet that do a wonderful job recreating the scene giving the reader tons of great information to share, I have attached some links below to make it even easier. The key for me in this blog is to get your thoughts towards the need to go through your buildings especially those of legacy construction and truly understand how void spaces can contribute to fire spread and collapse.

When reading the different accounts of this incident many will want to discuss the rain roof that was part of this structure and while it’s correct to debate as it played a part, I want you to focus on the voids and storage in the truss system and how they may contribute to building failure during a fire especially in Ordinary construction and also ILLUSTRATE to your younger members how to properly identify and size up large spanned buildings from the exterior, ask your members today at the table what a pilaster is. Many firefighters are taught that trusses are bad but yet we fail to give them the tools to adequately size up the exterior of a structure and put the pieces together quickly and safely on the fireground. We owe to the six brothers who perished that warm summer day many years ago. May they rest in peace and never be forgotten.

Chris Naum Report

Large Truss Spans and storage need to be identified, the Waldbaums Supermarket had large trusses that allowed access between spans, get out and identify with your members.

Here is a great size up video of a fire in a bowling alley to help your members identify large span buildings

In this Google Earth shot you can see the pilasters of building from video great to show your younger members

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