By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
It may not have been the largest fire in the citys history but the manner in which Killeen firefighters went about to contain it and saving the property in its proximity highly impressed their boss.
I think they did a very good job, said Henry Young, referring to the Furniture Max fire Tuesday night.
I wasnt there initially, but from what I understand, there was a pretty good amount of flames present and coming out of the building before our first unit arrived on the scene, Young said. And before they could lay the hoses and get any water on it, the building was fully involved.
Because of the commercial, flat-roof structure, Young said it prevented his firefighters from doing an interior fire attack.
When they get a heavy fire inside and the building itself is involved, not just its contents, those type of roofs are easy to collapse, he added.
With that type of fire, Young said rather than saving the building, his firefighters would have done nothing but potentially gotten themselves hurt as pieces of the building fell on them.
While many of the commercial buildings in Killeen have flat roofs, Young said in situations like Tuesdays fire, his firefighters might have been able to go inside and fight the fire, provided the roof had solid beam joist. If not, it would have come down real fast, he said.
And the only way they will know which is which is to do a thorough pre-fire plan, and most of the time, we cant get that done, the fire chief said.
Young said the Furniture Max fire was purely a defensive fire. This means theres no interior firefighting, and the firefighters simply set up their hoses and dont let the fire spread beyond that one building.
By doing this Tuesday night, the Killeen firefighters were able to save the Superior Paint & Body Shop that is located wall-to-wall to the east of Furniture Max. They were also able to save a mini van parked in front of the burning store.
Our guys recognized the problem and put a master screen on it, said the fire chief, explaining a master screen was when the heavy flow of water was shot from the ladder truck that night onto the paint shop and the mini van.
Young said if the paint shop had caught fire, there would have been explosions but not earth-shattering ones.
I dont think we would have seen explosions like a rail car going up, but it would have been an impressive fire, the fire chief said. And then, what was next to the paint shop ... the bushes, trees or whatever else ... would have been a problem. We may have seen some funny flames, some swooshing and some heavier fire.
Young explained that the fire load coming from the furniture store was a steady-roll and looked like one fire.
If that paint and those chemicals in the paint shop had gone off, you would have seen a larger body of fire, higher, of different colors of flames, more intense and a more impressive fire, Young said.
The fire chief said the Furniture Max fire was the biggest that he had seen in his four-year tenure in Killeen but pointed out that he was not present at the March 2004 Northside Theater fire, which may have been the biggest in the city.
Safe, modern fire departments
When asked how safe their respective cities are when it comes to fire, each of the fire chiefs in Killeen, Copperas Cove and Harker Heights were eager to respond.
We are very safe, Young said. We have a modern fire department that uses modern command and control techniques.
We have modern equipment, and we have young, well-trained aggressive firefighters, the fire chief added.
Young said what he admires the most was how his young firefighters tuck themselves under his most experienced firefighters when they deploy on a fire scene.
We dont have a lot of ... and we dont put up with it anyway ... young people trying to be John Wayne, gung ho or go do something to make them a hero, Young said. I think with the new training facility that we have, you are going to see our crews get their younger people through more training than we have been able to do in the past.
Cove safe, fire official says
Copperas Cove Fire Department Deputy Chief Robert ODell said his city is very safe, as well as its businesses.
When we look at taking care of the citizens of Copperas Cove, we look at three things; life safety, property conversation and confinement, meaning stopping the fire and extinguishing it, ODell said. We have a great department and a lot of dedicated firefighters who work for the city.
The department also provides direct emergency services to 12,000 residents living in unincorporated areas within Coryell and Bell counties.
The mission of the Copperas Cove Fire Department is, to protect and enhance the quality of life in the city built for family living through a comprehensive program of services delivered by an excellent team directed towards providing education, prevention, and control in the areas of fire, rescue, medical emergencies and disasters, said CCFD Chief Dennis Haas.
The employees of CCFD are committed to achieving high quality service levels to all of their customers, Haas said.CCFD staffs three fire stations 24 hours a day to better serve its community.
With the acquisition of a new ladder truck, called the quint, Harker Heights Fire Chief Leon Charpentier said his department is absolutely prepared for the safety of its residents.
We are a whole lot safer than the rest of the cities, Charpentier said. Since we have all this new equipment, we are able to do a lot of different things.
HHFD is equally trained in the fire rescue service. Its firefighters/paramedics strive to train each and every day, Charpentier said.
Every citizen in Harker Heights is within a five-minute response time from the time a call is received, the fire chief said. This ensures the fastest and quality service.
HHFD is a combination fire department. This means, we have 30 paid staff along with five volunteers, Charpentier said. We are equipped with two advanced life support ambulances certified mobile intensive care unit, four fire engines, two booster trucks and various administrative vehicles.
The department has two fire stations that are strategically placed in the city to ensure a fast response time.
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