ELYRIA — Local firefighters say the only way to prevent large-scale blazes like the one Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine firefighters is by staying vigilant on code enforcement.
“Even though some people get upset that we enforce fire codes, there is a reason — to prevent things like this,” Elyria Fire Capt. Dave Igneczi said.
Tuesday’s fire, at a Sofa Super Store, marked the nation’s worst loss of firefighters since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Charleston fire captains told The Associated Press that a flashover — in which heat reaches temperatures so high that all combustible material catches fire — may have caused the roof to collapse on the firefighters when they brought in hoses to extinguish it.
The cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined, although arson is not suspected.
Avon Lake Fire Chief Bill Morris said one of the biggest safeguards is with automatic sprinklers.
“I think that is one of the keys for commercial or public buildings,” Morris said.
The sofa warehouse didn’t have sprinklers, nor was it required to. That’s not unusual, and many local buildings don’t have them, either, Morris said.
“A lot of older buildings that weren’t required to have sprinklers when they were built still don’t have sprinklers,” he said.
Lorain Fire Chief Tom Brown said the fire serves as a reminder of why firefighters spend so much time training. They need to know ahead of time — using reports prepared by the fire prevention bureau — of where fire hazards are, how a building’s roof is constructed and so on.
“It’s just consistent training and recognition of the building construction and recognizing the things that can go wrong,” Brown said. “A lot of it is preplanning and knowing what the dangers are.”
Brown said recognizing when to pull firefighters out of blazing buildings that cannot be salvaged is a difficult but key part of the job.
Igneczi said it’s always sobering to hear about firefighters dying on the job.
“I think even though as firefighters we are trained for instances like this, it’s one of those things we don’t expect,” Igneczi said. “When we come into work in the morning, we don’t expect our members to die in a fire.”
Contact Rania Shakkour at 329-7127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.