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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CSW Commentary: Investigation of Milburn Country Club Fire Should Be More Than Just The Cause

Okay- being a former firefighter and (I feel) still a part of the firefighting community- I REALLY hate to say this- but firefighting operations at yesterday's 3-alarm fire at the Milburn Golf course and country club SHOULD be closely examined.

First of all- media reports early-on in the fire stated that it took firefighters who responded on the initial alarm around 4:20 p.m. took "about 30 minutes to get water on the fire."


The ONLY time it MIGHT take 30 minutes to get any water on a fire in a heavily-populated and urbanized area is when all the water mains have been ruptured by something like an 8.0 earthquake.

And even then- MOST fire engines/pumpers and even many of the newer (since the mid-1970's) multi-purpose aerial trucks have 500 gallon on-board water tanks.

There is/was simply no excuse for any reported scarcity of hydrants in that heavily-urbanized area around Milburn- but even so- that's why engine/pumpers carry lots of hose.

Here in KC-MO- hydrant locations are known- and with the on-board computers practically ALL those fancy Johnson County KS fire trucks have now- that information SHOULD have been readily available.

Also- the first TV news (KSHB) helicopter pictures showed NO FIREFIGHTERS on the roof of either the burning- nor nearby threatened structure(s).

When I was on the KC-MO FD from 1975-80- I was an "extra driver-" and drove EVERY kind (and year of rig from the late 1940's) of fire apparatus the department had- including the huge and powerful K.C.I. airport "crash" trucks.

When I was the driver (known as a "fire apparatus operator of FAO) of a "Truck" company or aerial rig- my job was to position that truck and prepare it for IMMEDIATE access to the upper floors and/or roof of the involved structure and the members of the truck's crew immediately went for search and rescue and ventilation of the structure.

I saw NONE of that ventilation early-on yesterday at the Milburn fire.

Lastly- here in KC-MO- we fight fires from INSIDE OUT- not the other way around.

From all I've heard and seen of the Milburn fire- crews DID go inside until it seemed they found a fire- then outside went all the crews it appeared.

Here- interior operations are maintained until it's obvious and clear that continuing interior operations would become ABSOLUTELY DANGEROUS to those crews- THEN they're pulled out until it's safe to re-enter.

I didn't see any hoselines running into the Milburn country club building on the helicopter aerial pictures I watched on KSHB-41 (who was there first)- KMBC-9 and KCTV-5.

I hate to admit it as I'm sure the Overland Park Fire department would- but they flat let that fire get away from them in my trained estimation.

And- having lived in Johnson County KS in the early to mid-1980's and having seen firefighters in that county battle several major fires- it's NOT the first time- by a long shot.

If I was paying as much in property and other taxes that Johnson Countians do- I would be just a TAD concerned today and especially if my home or business were to catch fire.

THAT's why I want Kansas City MO's heavily-trained and well-equipped fire department on any and ALL incidents in the city- not any suburban "mutual-aid" companies.



the observer said...


You know, I did give some thought as to why this fire got so big. I attributed it to the difficulties of fighting fire in a place with a large open room--gyms, church sanctuaries, like that.

No water for 30 minutes?!

If a FD knows that an area is a little thin on hydrants--and this was not a new development that just popped up--wouldn't they do some advanced planning so that they would know exactly what to do if it caught fire? Seems to me that this should have been a known issue and advance planing done involving the use of the boosters, tankers, portable water tanks, ponds on the property and relays from hydrants (like you said, they carry a lot of hose on those trucks)as short and long term water sources to fight a fire in this location.

"Surround and drown" is the last option for firefighting operations typically. Why just today, KCFD rapidly controlled a fire in an empty 3 story apartment building despite the presence of holes in the floor on the third story . I thought they might pull out after the truckies found the holes, but they just used caution and got the job done. Also in the recently fought fire in Grandview, both fire departments worked to put holes in the roof to vent and shoot water thru.

Finally on the subject of FD training. I lived in Grandview for about 10 years. During that time, there were several fires in apartment complexes in that city. Rarely, if ever, was a fire allowed to progress beyond the first sound fire wall barrier. GFD always attacked them aggressively. GFD seems like a sound department and I am glad they are our first help here in the southland.

Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Groucho K. Marx said...


According to news media reports the OPFD DID do advanced planning specifically for Milburn.

Lotta good THAT seemed to do- eh?

Yes- the Grandview department is good- I had several of their trainees- along with Lee's Summit and one Gladstone trainee in my fire academy class in '75.

I would be comfortable with Grandview and Lee's Summit- along with KC-KS and Independence fire crews working an incident in KC-MO without a qualm one.

My retired chief dispatch friend reminded me yesterday of an incident where KC-MO fire companies went to JoCoKS on a mutual-aid fire response here withing the past 10 years or so.

The KC-MO crews were INSIDE- and the JoCoKS fire chief on the scene pulled them out and caused some tension between him and the KC-MO chief.

My friend went as far to say he thinks that the KC-MO fire crews were "showing-up" the JoCo crews due to our more-agressive posture in fighting the fire.

Unlike the corporate news media in this town- I'm not afraid to call someone out that I think is messing-up.

After all- I don't have to rely on ANY video or such the JoCoKS departments provide the local TV news organizations.

In other words- I'm not beholden to ANYONE to withhold possible truths to save the other guy's face...

Peace my friend-