Manhasset-Lakeville F.D. Firefighters Experience "Close-Call" With Lightweight Wood Construction

On Saturday, January 18th, 2014 at 8:05PM, Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department Companies 1, 2, 3 and the Ambulance Unit were dispatched to 32 Stone Hill Drive South for a reported house fire. Deputy Chiefs Candan (8704), Kiess (8701), Farrone (8705) and Chief Pisani (8702) all responded within seconds of one another and were all informed that the caller stated their house was on fire. While en route, units received updated information that a second call had been received reporting fire, N.C.P.D. units were on the scene asking for fire department units to “step it up”, and the automatic fire alarm for the residence coming over. Immediately following that transmission Chief Pisani (8702) requested that the Port Washington Fire Department be notified to respond as a Firefighter Assist & Search Team (F.A.S.T.) because with this new information it sounded like units were responding to a working fire.

Deputy Chief Kiess (8701) was the first unit to make entry to the house and advised Deputy Chief Candan (8704) that everyone was out of the house and accounted for and that he had a smoke condition on the first floor and an even heavier smoke condition in the basement with a very strong burning odor. Engine 8740 had a crew in quarters and was the first piece of apparatus on the road and arrived on the scene with Engines 8711 and 8735. All three Companies stretched two 1” ¾ hose lines to the front door of the 5,000+ square foot 2.5-story house. After the hose line was charged, the crews of Engine 8740 and 8711 began to advance into the basement where they encountered high-heat and visible fire.

After knocking down what they believed was the main-body of fire, crews began opening up the surrounding areas of the basement and realized that they in fact had a well-developed advanced fire which was already in the walls and ceiling before their arrival. At the same time, crews operating inside the house on the first floor now had visible fire extending through the floor boards and realized that the first floor was becoming spongy and starting to sag in certain locations. In the front foyer, the floor actually began to tear away from the wall. After observing this, Deputy Chief Candan (8704) transmitted an “urgent” message and had all members evacuate from the structure immediately, as it was now obvious that the light weight wood construction of the house was beginning to fail and the results would be catastrophic. Seconds after the last member exited the structure the entire front foyer area of the first floor collapsed into the basement and was engulfed in flames. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the entire first floor failed and the fire rapidly began to consume the rest of the structure.

Members re-positioned their hose lines and began a defensive attack. Tower Ladders 8724 and 8744 were setup in front of the fire building along with Ladder 8743. The three master streams operated along with several 1” ¾ and 2 ½” hose lines which were positioned on all four sides of the very large structure. Eventually, due to the amazing fire load, there was a complete structural failure and the house collapsed on all four sides. Even after the collapse it took several hours to bring the raging fire under control.

Due to the amount of hose lines being operated, it was necessary to call for mutual aid from several neighboring departments. The Port Washington F.D., Great Neck Vigilant Fire Co., Great Neck Alert Fire Co., Plandome F.D., Mineola F.D. and Albertson Fire Co. all operated at the scene, while several other departments provided stand-by coverage in the Manhasset-Lakeville firehouses. All units were released from the scene by Chief of Department Pisani (8702) at 2:45AM the morning of Sunday, January 19th. The Nassau County Fire Marshal’s office was called for an immediate to investigate the cause of the fire. As a precaution, Engine 8711 and Tower Ladder 8724 remained on scene performing a watch line with alternating crews until about 12:30PM on Sunday, January 19th, at which time a construction crew arrived to begin dismantling the collapsed wreckage.

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