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Plan for fighting blaze laid out years ago

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
In the offices of the Salisbury Fire Department are hundreds of firefighting plans, one for virtually every business and multi-family residence in the city.
On the morning of March 7, when a blaze broke out at Salisbury Millwork, Bob Parnell, chief of the Salisbury Fire Department, pulled the plan for that business from its file.
“This was out the morning of the fire,” Parnell said, pointing Friday afternoon to the four-page file, titled, “Quick Access Pre-Fire Plan.”
“I pulled it myself.”
The fire would become the most tragic in the city’s history, claiming the lives of two firefighters ó Victor Isler and Justin Monroe.
The plan that Salisbury firefighters had for fighting a blaze at Salisbury Millwork was laid out years in advance. For the most part, the plan, which is completed under guidelines from the U.S. Fire Administration, tells typical stuff ó how much water would be required to fight a blaze if the building is 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent involved.
The plan also specifies the number of alarms, engines and ladders needed should the fire grow. A map of the building is included on the plan’s last page.
Similar plans are used by firefighters at countless fire departments across the nation. A copy of the plan for Salisbury Millwork was supplied Friday to the Post.
The plan includes the probable strategy for fighting a blaze at Salisbury Millwork. That strategy reads: “Aggressive fire attack, quick search, rapid venting.”
Parnell said another translation of the word “aggressive” might be “offensive.” He said that’s the typical means that firefighters have of battling blazes.
Parnell said there are only a handful of buildings (a chemical plant, for instance) in town where firefighters wouldn’t attempt to enter to douse a blaze.
David Morris, a division chief with the Salisbury Fire Department, said an aggressive fire attack is intended to prevent the blaze from spreading to other parts of the building.
Also included in Salisbury Millwork’s Quick Access Pre-Fire Plan are the following:
– Fire behavior prediction: “Quick fire spread fueled by sawdust and adhesives.”
– Hazards to personnel: “Large open elevator shaft, cluttered aisle ways and machinery.”
– Hazardous materials: “Adhesives and paint.”
Morris said the warning about the elevator shaft is indicative of the reason for the plan.
“It kind of forewarns the firefighters where they might encounter hazards,” he said.
The plan specifies that the lumber plant at 1910 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. didn’t have fire sprinklers. It notes that the building included a lumber company and cabinet manufacturing operation.
Also released Friday was a fire inspection report of Salisbury Millwork from the past seven years. The building was last inspected Dec. 3, 2007.
“At the time of my inspection, there were no hazards apparent,” the report reads. “Therefore, I have no recommendations to make at this time.”
The name of the inspector is not included on the report. Parnell said all fire inspectors working for the city are qualified through the N.C. Building Codes Council.
He said an annual inspection of a business is routine.
The report shows a permit that the owners of Salisbury Millwork purchased from the fire department this past December. The permit was for hazardous materials storage and cost $120.
The inspection reports of Salisbury Millwork supplied the Post date to 2001. For the most part, the reports are fairly mundane, noting only that annual inspections were completed and no problems were detected.
The only exception was in the 2003 report when Salisbury Millwork was cited for not having hazardous identification signs. It stated that “identification signs for the specific material contained shall be placed on stationary containers and above-ground tanks and at entrances to locations where hazardous materials are stored, dispensed, used or handled in quantities requiring a permit and at specific entrances and locations designated by the code official.”
The citation, written on Nov. 11, 2003, noted signs must be in place by Dec. 3, 2003.
There is no notation signifying that owners of Salisbury Millwork complied with the order, but when the building was next inspected on Nov. 9, 2004, there was no indication that anything about the structure was amiss.Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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