I responded with the dept. that I photograph for to a structure fire yesterday (1-4-2012) at 3:56 P.M.

Upon arrival there was heavy smoke showing from an air conditioner vent for an apartment unit next to the one that burnt in 2009 in the same building.  Upon entry, personnel found that there was an active fire in the unit and called a full 3 alarm assignment as well as mutual aid for ambulance due to the type of occupancy.  The building houses a lot of low income people as well as a lot of elderly including many with medical issues.  Fire damage was contained to the apt. of origin but there was heat, smoke, and water damage to a total of 6 apts.  I will be posting photos of it this weekend when I have more time due to work and family obligations until then.  When I post the photos, I will give a full description of the building.  Thanks.

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Update: Here are some of the photos from the fire scene. Enjoy



Bread and butter room and contents fire... 

Agreed.  I'm a little confused on why this was a 3-alarm fire.  Especially if he called it immediately seeing only that little amount of smoke?

The reason why a third alarm was called for fire and the 4th for mutual aid for another ambulance is due to the type of occupancy.  This building is also connedted to anther building to the North making it one large complex. There are also no fire walls in the attic.  This apartment complex houses low income, elderly, and also medically challenged individuals.  The last time this building had a fire of this magnitude was in 2009 when the unit on the right side on the corner there had a fire and 2 people were transported. One for massive burns and the other cardiac.  The North building is a 2 story building on the rear with a 1 story wing in the front going towards the road and this building is a 3 story rear with a 2 story front.  They are connected by a common hallway on the 1st and 2nd floors.  With this being an old building with no firewalls to todays standards and the type of occupancy, it is department protocal to go to a full 3 alarm or more assignment upon confirmation of an active fire to try and stop it before it gets too large.  Hope this helps.

Not knowing their available resources, I file this one in the "successful" category.  It's always better to have the resources on the way if there's any doubt.  You can always cancel the additional resources if you don't need them.



I would agree Ben.


Chippewa Falls in a smaller city in the western part of the state. I don't know too much about the area other than some visits and so forth. The dept is career and there are a couple other smaller career depts, but not alot for resources. Considering the description that Ron gives I can understand the urgency to call for another alarm because it may take a little time to get MA on scene.


Also just by a quick look at the building it is quite similar to a couple building we have with residents as described. Doing preplans, rescue is going to be a challenge and the building construction doesn't help. Most likely there is no standpipe, stairwells are at the ends with really nothing in the middle, making a hose stretch and fire attack a challenge.

Thank you John for such a great description. I have actually been in this exact building before for work and observed no sprinkler system in this building since it is so old. Stairs on each end of the hallway and a general elevator in the center of each building. No standpipe hookup is also correct.  Knowing all of this and the preplanning that has gone on over the years along with the type of occupancy and it is a challenge. Not to mention that lateley the dept has been calling a lot of 2nd alarms just due to the volume of medical calls going on makes responce times for crews an issue. All of the townships surrounding the city are all Volunteer depts. so that is why the alarms were called so fast as well as MA in case the fire was larger than what it was as well as incase someone fell ill or got injured. I do have a few more photos that I can show showing more of the resources on the scene as well as duration on the scene.  Thanks again.

It would be interesting to know what resources or assistance that they receive on their alarms, ie. first alarm response, second alarm, etc.

How close are the nearest mutual aid departments and are they full time or volunteer?  I guess that would change everything a lot.  Like Mike said above me, it's a routine fire here that happens all the time.  However we also have 5 engines, 2 trucks and a rescue on scene within about 5 minutes.  If later on something does happen, we can upgrade to a 2nd alarm and get more resources on scene very quickly.  I do understand that if you're waiting 20 minutes for another engine company it would make it more difficult though.

This call came in directly to the station as a general alarm (still alarm response) for an activated fire alarm via phone directly to the station from someone who just entered the building. Due to this only 1 engine initially responded (due to all of the false alarms in the last 3 months). When the first engine arrived nothing was showing outside, but upon checking inside within 1.5 minutes command immediately requested the first full alarm (2nd engine and both ambulances) to respond.  30 seconds later, upon getting to the second floor and finding extremely large amounts of smoke, a 2nd and 3rd alarm were struck (bringing a 3rd engine and 3rd ambulance to the scene) and MA was called (4th alarm) for an additional ambulance to the scene.  Within 20 minutes all crews were on the scene and the fire was knocked down soon after. Due to this type of building and occupancy, many crews were sent to the other wings of the building to make sure it was fully evacuated due to this fire.  Once the building was deemed clear, crews then rotated in and out to do salvage and overhaul. 


The primary department is a paid career dept. but has had an issue recently with members not responding in when paged for alarms when it is their day off or even if they are on the call in. One of the MA depts around is a Paid EMS but volunteer Fire dept that is part of a 4 statioin fire district. All other MA depts around in the surrounding towns that are on the border of the city are all volunteer.  All of these depts are a minimum of 8 miles aways.  The next closest paid dept. that has been used before for MA is 12 miles away in another city.  The primary dept has 3 engines, 4 ambulances (Paramedic), 1 brush truck, 1 cascade / haz mat, 1 snorkel (85' platform), 1 rescue boat, and a zodiac rubber raft.


Hope this helps.

Ron mentions more to another response that could help with the info. Closest MA was 8 miles away and consists primarily with volunteer (7 career personnel). Next closest career is 12 miles away.


Sounds like nothing was showing on arrival and the initial dispatch came in because someone called because the fire alarm was sounding. (My bet is it is a local alarm system and not monitored)

Thanks for the explanation of the alarm assignments, it clarifies the 3rd alarm request. I know that MABAS is used through-out southern and central WI. Has it made that far north?

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