Subject guide: vacant structure fires
This resource page allows you to browse our collection materials drawn from federal, state and local governments as well as non-governmental organizations, and professional and scholarly publications. Many of these resources are available online but not all. Fire and EMS: if you need assistance getting access to a copy of any of these materials, please contact the library at 301-447-1046.
- Vacant Residential Building Fires Report (PDF, 744 Kb, USFA, 2010)
- Abandoned Cold Storage Warehouse Multi-Firefighter Fatality Fire, Worcester, Massachusetts (USFA PDF, 1 Mb)
On December 3, 1999 five firefighters and one officer fatalities occurred in an abandoned warehouse. Failure to properly secure and maintain security at this warehouse allowed vagrants to enter, live in, and cause a fire in the building. Rescue crews became lost in the vast dark spaces of the fifth floor while searching for possibly two homeless people who were reported to be living there. Suppression efforts were ineffective because of huge volumes of petroleum based materials.
- Vacant Building Fires Fact Sheet (NFPA)
- Career fire captain dies when trapped by partial roof collapse in a vacant house fire (NIOSH)
On February 19, 2005, a 39-year-old Texas career fire captain (the victim) died after being trapped by the partial collapse of the roof of a vacant one-story wood frame dwelling. The house was abandoned and known by residents in the area to be a "crack house" at the time of the incident. The victim was the captain on the first-arriving engine crew which was assigned to perform a "fast attack" to take a hoseline into the house, locate the seat of the fire, and begin extinguishment.
- Career fire fighter dies after being trapped in a roof collapse during overhaul of a vacant/abandoned building (NIOSH)
On November 15, 2008, a 38-year-old male firefighter (the victim) died after being crushed by a roof collapse in a vacant/abandoned building. Firefighters initially used a defensive fire attack to extinguish much of the fire showing from the second-floor windows on arrival. After the initial knockdown, fire crews entered the second floor to perform overhaul operations. During overhaul, the roof collapsed with several firefighters still inside, on the second floor.
- Career fire fighter injured during rapid fire progression in an abandoned structure dies six days later (NIOSH)
On November 23, 2006, a 33-year-old male Georgia career firefighter (the victim) was seriously injured during a fire in a single story abandoned duplex house. The victim was working the interior of the structure fire with other crew members for less than a minute when they were ordered to evacuate the structure because of extreme conditions. At about the same time a flashover or flameover occurred; the victim became disoriented and was unable to exit the burning structure.
- Preventing deaths and injuries of fire fighters using risk management principles at structure fires (NIOSH)
Firefighters are often killed or injured when fighting fires in abandoned, vacant, and unoccupied structures. These structures pose additional and sometimes unique risks due to the potential for firefighters to encounter unexpected and unsafe building conditions such as dilapidation, decay, damage from previous fires and vandals, and other factors such as uncertain occupancy status. Risk management principles must be applied at all structure fires to ensure the appropriate strategy and tactics are used based on the fireground conditions encountered.
- Preventing deaths and injuries of fire fighters when fighting fires in unoccupied structures (NIOSH)
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests assistance in preventing deaths and injuries of U.S. firefighters working in or around unoccupied structures or structures where no clear evidence indicates that people are trapped inside. Interior (inside a structure) and offensive (aggressive) firefighting operations increase the risk of traumatic injury and death from structural collapse, burns, and asphyxiation. Unoccupied structures, whether in current use, under construction, under renovation, or condemned, must be considered expendable in order to decrease the risk to firefighters. This alert describes four incidents that resulted in the deaths of five firefighters and injuries to seven others during offensive operations in and around unoccupied structures.
- Volunteer Fire Chief Killed when Buried by Brick Parapet Wall Collapse (NIOSH)
On July 5, 2008, a 42-year old male Texas volunteer fire chief was killed when he was struck by a collapsing brick parapet wall during a commercial structure fire.
- Vacant building fires (NFPA, 2009)
Fires in vacant buildings have become a matter of increasing concern as the economy has weakened. In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 31,000 structure fires in vacant buildings per year. These fires resulted in an average of 50 civilian deaths, 141 civilian injuries, and $642 million in direct property damage per year.
- Managing Vacant and Abandoned Properties in Your Community (IAAI)
Executive Fire Officer Program papers
- The empty threat of abandoned mills. The problem is that abandoned mills place local citizens and public safety officials at great risk. The purpose of this evaluative research was to assess the problem, gather information, develop an evaluation tool and means to deliver the information to local officials.
- Reducing the risks of abandoned buildings in East Cleveland, Ohio. A significant and increasing number of abandoned buildings in East Cleveland, Ohio, was threatening the safety of surrounding properties, jeopardizing citizen and firefighter safety, and negatively affecting the tax base of the city and the vitality of its neighborhoods. Descriptive research identified means by which the fire department could reduce the risks associated with abandoned buildings by identifying the hazards they created, determining how other like organizations reduce these risks and identifying how other like organizations eliminate abandoned buildings.
- Reducing vacant building fires in Milwaukee. Although the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had been troubled with fires in vacant or abandoned buildings in significant numbers since the 1960's, the problem was that a spike of fires in these buildings, late in 2008 threatened the health and safety of firefighters, possible occupants and neighbors. The purpose of this applied research paper (ARP) was to evaluate the scope of vacant building fires in Milwaukee and identify methods for reducing those fires.
- Hazard mitigation fund city ordinance and implementation rules. Through the use of action research, questions about laws other chartered cities within Ohio have enacted, what the rules of implementation should be, what would be the economic impact and what funding options were available for creating a Hazard Mitigation Fund were answered.
- Firefighters risking their lives to save disposable properties. Akron Fire Department's firefighters have experienced an increase in the number of calls to abandoned, vacant and unoccupied properties (AVUP) over the last year. There have been a high number of arson fires, interior structural components are being compromised, holes cut in the floors, windows and doors are boarded up. All of these issues have delayed fire response. The department has also seen a higher number of house gas explosions and fully involved house fires. The issue is why are firefighters willing to risk their lives to save disposable properties. If these types of runs are not handled properly, they can cause injury or death.
- Analyzing the problem of abandoned, vacant and unoccupied buildings in Middletown, Ohio. The purpose of this research was to collect current data and conduct problem analysis of the multiple hazards associated with abandoned, vacant and unoccupied buildings in Middletown, Ohio.
Books and miscellenous
Spotlight: Chicago Vacant Structure Fire Collapse
On December 22, 2010 at approximately 7:07 a.m. CST, four firefighters responding to a fire in an abandoned laundry in the South Shore area of Chicago were trapped and killed when a portion of the roof and adjacent wall collapsed. The links below are specifically related to this tragic incident.
Photos and diagrams