Los Angeles Fire Department
January 17, 1994
The Northridge Earthquake
January 19, 1994
On January 17, 1994, at 0431 hours, the City of Los Angeles was the recipient of a major earthquake with a moment magnitude of 6.7. The epicenter was reported to be in the Northridge area of the San Fernando Valley which is located in the center of Battalion 15.
I was on duty and in command of Battalion 15 at the time of the quake and remained in command until relieved at approximately 1400 hours. Battalion 15 Headquarters had just recently relocated from Fire Station 70 to the new Fire Station 28 at 11641 Corbin Ave. All regularly assigned "C" Platoon officers were on duty at their respective stations and all companies were in Quarters at the time of the quake.
The following is a brief overview of the effect the quake had at each Fire Station:
FIRE STATION 8 -- Paramedic Engine Company 8
Fire Station 8 received a severe shock causing items from
shelves, light fixtures, etc. be thrown every which way throughout the station. The shock
was so severe that the station's cast iron Wolf stove, which would strain four men to
move, was knocked from its position, breaking off the gas line, and thrown upside down to
the middle of the kitchen. The front overhead doors were inoperative due to the loss of
power. The company exited the fire station through the rear apparatus doors after opening
it manually. The members assigned to the station believed the station was in imminent
danger of collapse.
F-225 - REV. 2-83
FIRE STATION 18
Fire Station 18 was also severely struck by the quake. Debris was scattered throughout the station. The front apparatus doors were without power and stuck in the closed position. This company manually opened the rear apparatus doors and exited the station by this means.
FIRE STATION 28
Fire Station 28 is a new station and at the time of the quake had no fire companies assigned. Battalion 15 and EMS III, consisting of one Battalion Chief, a Battalion Staff Assistant, and a EMS District Captain were the only units assigned to this station.
This station received a severe shock.. I was knocked from my bed onto the floor, landing between the bed and the wall. Many shelves from the hallway lockers flew across the hallway and down the adjacent stairs. The station lost power and the front apparatus doors had to be opened manually. Apart from debris scattered throughout the building, no damage to the station was noted.
FIRE STATION 70
Fire Station 70 suffered a series of severe shocks and violent shaking. The subsequent damage was the worst received by any station in the Battalion. At the hour of the quake all personnel were in bed. The sudden shock caused all members to immediately "bunk out" of their beds. This probably saved many of them from serious injury or worse because many bricks fell from the walls onto the beds that momentarily before were occupied by the sleeping men. Running to the apparatus floor, members found the two engines, the ladder truck hopping across the floor. There were gaping cracks in the walls and the apparatus floor buckled up. The front apparatus doors jammed in the closed position. So much plaster and other debris were falling that everyone thought the station was actually collapsing . However, the men remained inside the shaking building and attempted to open the jammed apparatus doors manually. Unable to open the front doors, Task Force 70 eventually exited the station through the rear apparatus doors after opening them manually.
FIRE STATION 87
Fire Station 87 also suffered serious shaking causing numerous cracks throughout the building.. Debris was scattered everywhere in the station. Members assigned believed that the station was structurally damaged but they remained inside attempting to open the apparatus doors. The doors were jammed and off the track and because of the crowded conditions at this station this task was exceptionally difficult. After some delay, the members managed to open the apparatus doors and exit the station.
Fire Station 96 was also hit hard by the initial shock and lost power. Scattered debris from the shelves and lockers were scattered throughout the station. The company exited the station by manually opening the apparatus doors.
Fire Station 103, like all the other stations, received a hard shock and lost power to the apparatus doors. Debris was scattered throughout the station and several cracks in the cement were noticed. The company exited the station by manually opening the apparatus doors.
Fire Station 104 also received a severe shock and experienced a loss of power to the apparatus doors. Debris was scattered throughout the station and plaster fell in some areas. The Company exited the station by manually opening the apparatus doors.
This station also suffered a severe shock scattering debris throughout the station. Because of a loss of power the front apparatus doors were opened manually allowing the companies to exit the station.
Although each station in the Battalion sustained damage during the first series of shocks, all personnel remained coolheaded and made every effort to remove their respective apparatus. These endeavors were accomplished in total darkness except for the light of their flashlights. Accomplishing this task required courage and initiative, particularly at Fire Station 70, where the personnel believed that the station was in imminent danger of collapse. During the time the Firefighters were attempting to remove their apparatus, numerous after shocks continued to shake and jolt the building -- sometimes severely.
All the Companies in Battalion 15 immediately went into the "Earthquake Emergency Mode". Some delay was caused by the difficulty of companies exiting their stations. After leaving their stations, each company attempted to provide me with the status of personnel, apparatus, and their quarters over the radio. Because of the extremely poor radio reception, this task was very difficult. Eventually, the status of each company was provided to me.
From the beginning, serious problems were encountered with radio communications. As per Department Policy the various Battalions were heard attempting to conduct their "Radio/Status Checks". Although being aware of this, very few messages could be heard and most of these were unreadable or badly broken. Because of the poor radio reception I could not conclude whether other Battalions had started or completed their radio/status checks.
Numerous attempts were made to contact Division III and OCD via radio channels 3, 8, 11, and also the Cellular phone with no success.
After pulling out onto the apron of Fire Station 28 I could see numerous large fires in the Battalion.. It was obvious to me that several of these fires, if left unattended, would soon become a serious threat to adjacent structures.
I attempted to radio Battalion 15 companies but could not make contact. I then changed locations in an attempt to improve reception. Changing locations did not improve the reception.
INCIDENTS IN BATTALION 15
From my vantage point I could see numerous fires in every direction. In normal conditions many of these fires would have been Greater Alarms or Major Emergencies by them selves. Although some fires were incredibly spectacular, many of the smaller, less obvious fires were more threatening to life and property.
Eventually, and with great difficulty due to the poor radio reception, I began piecing together fragments of radio messages from my Companies describing incredible devastation and disaster through out the Battalion. Major fires raged out of control in many commercial buildings, at Cal State Northridge University, at a large condo complex, at 2 mobile home parks and in numerous dwellings. In addition, there were 3 brush/grass fires burning and part of the Battalion was experiencing 20+ mph winds. On Balboa Blvd a major natural gas line had exploded and flames leaped spectacularly into the sky burning a dozen single family dwellings and exposing many more. A large DWP water line ruptured and a torrent of water was flooding down Balboa.. The 14 ( Antelope Valley Frw. had collapsed onto the I-5 ( Golden State Frw.) and the 118 ( Simi Valley Frw. ) had also fallen. Numerous freeway overpasses had buckled. The Northridge Fashion Center Shopping Mall and parking structure, as well as several other parking structures, had collapsed. A 4 story medical facility, numerous commercial buildings, apartments and multiple as well as single family dwellings had also collapsed or suffered severe damage.
There were 3 physical rescue sites involving dozens of trapped people, 3 major Hazardous Materials Incidents, one with a building placard of 4x4x4-W- and another, a train derailment, with a 2000 gallon sulfuric acid leak.
At the time of the quake, I did not realize that Battalion 15 was the epicenter. Because of the extreme volume of radio traffic, I believed that the quake may have been centered elsewhere, and those other areas of the City had sustained more severe damage than my Battalion. I therefore did not expect to receive assistance for some time. Furthermore this feeling was reinforced when I later heard some officer screaming for 10 companies to be dispatched immediately to Rosco Bl. and Carbin Canyon - "NOW"!
The majority of my messages to Division III giving status and requesting additional resources were either not received by Division III or his acknowledgments of these requests were not received by me.
Eventually some messages did get through and Division III sent companies as they became available to him. Additionally, upon their own initiative, Battalion Commanders of the adjacent Battalions, who, upon hearing my requests, provided me with some of their companies. Also, many Company Officers using their own initiative, responded to incidents in Battalion 15 when they became available to do so. The actions of these Chief Officers and Company Commanders
INCIDENTS IN BATTALION 15 CONTINUED
greatly assisted my operations and without their initiative and mental alertness the overall operations of the Fire Department in Northridge could have been vastly different.
If there was any time a Helicopter would be of assistance for an aerial reconnaissance mission, this was it! Numerous attempts were made to contact Air Operations to no avail. After many attempts, Plug Buggy 90 received my message and stated that "he would attempt to contact Fire 4 who was in the area." It was of critical importance that an aerial reconnaissance of the Battalion be made as soon as possible.
I was then informed that the Helicopter was not available because it had been directed to pick up and transport a passenger instead. Later into the Incident I was informed to contact Fire 4 via Channel 8 or 19. Again, an attempt to contact the helicopter was made with no success. I was then told to make contact via channel 24. This channel also proved to be of no value.
Battalion 15 never made contact with any Department
Helicopters or Air Operations during the entire Incident. No aerial reconnaissance
information was ever received during my command.
The following are some of the incidents reported to me, and
my directives to Battalion 15 companies during the first 30 minutes after the earthquake:
Investigation for trapped victims: Engine Co. 18 discovered numerous automobiles in the wreckage of the collapsed freeways. A woman (7 months pregnant) was spotted trapped inside one of the crushed vehicles. With courageous effort and total disregard for their own safety, the crew of Engine Co. 18 climbed amidst the tons of towering concrete wreckage and rescued the women. A Los Angeles County Fire Department Helicopter came upon the scene and was flagged down. The helicopter transported the women to a hospital.
At Balboa Bl. North of Rinaldi St. Engine Co. 18 encountered a spectacular fire from a broken 20" gas feeder main and a raging flood from a ruptured 56" DWP feeder main. The fire involved dwellings on both sides of Balboa Bl. and was spreading to adjacent dwellings. Engine Co. 18 attacked the fires on the north side and saved numerous exposed dwellings.
LIGHT FORCE 96
Light Force 96 extinguished a fire in a dwelling at 21601 San Jose St. Reported a commercial building fire at 9250 Canoga Ave. fully involved. Directed not to commit because the fire was too far advanced and not threatening other structures.
Extinguished a fire involving mobile homes at 21500 Lasen St. and prevented it from spreading to other mobile homes.
Directed to 19810 Reseda Blvd. to investigate a report of people trapped in a collapsed apartment building. Found no persons trapped.
Directed to Cal State University at Northridge. Reported fire in the structure. Directed not to commit.
Directed to Northridge Meadows Apartment collapse. Assisted
on scene companies with rescue operations.
ENGINE COMPANY 96
Engine Co. 96 extinguished a brush fire that was threatening dwellings at the Simi Freeway at the Ventura County line.
Engine Co. 96 assisted Engine Co. 72 with the extinguishment of a fully involved mobile home at a mobile home park at Plummer and Variel.
Reported a partial collapse of apartment buildings at 9810 and 9820 Reseda Bl. Possibility of persons trapped.
Reported the Northridge Meadows Apartment Building collapse at 9565 Reseda Bl. with persons trapped.
Reported a structure fire at Lindley and Lamarsh.
Reported a dwelling fire at 19555 Dearborn. Engine 270 detached from the Light Force to contain and prevent the fire from spreading into the exposures.
LIGHT FORCE 70's OPERATIONS CONTINUED
Reported the collapsed of a 3 story parking structure at the Northridge Fashion Center located at 9301 Tampa Ave. with one man trapped beneath 3 levels of concrete.
Reported the collapsed of the 3 story Bullocks Department store at the Northridge Fashion Shopping Center at 9301 Tampa Ave.
Truck Co. 70 then returned to the Northridge Meadows Apartment Building at 9565 Reseda Bl. Battalion 15 was on scene and directed Truck Co. 70 to immediately begin search and rescue efforts for the trapped victims.
ENGINE COMPANY 70
Directed by Battalion 15, Engine Co. 70 extinguished a grass fire at Rinaldi St. and Corbin Ave. which was threatening many adjacent dwellings and potentially could have developed into a major brush fire.
Engine Co. 70 assisted Engine Co's. 87 and 73 with the fire attack in the 2 story condominium building at Lindley Ave. and Andrea Circle and on Melinda Way. Together they prevented this fire from spreading throughout the large complex.
Engine Co. 107 found a mobile home park with 2 mobile homes, a block apart, fully involved and spreading to others. Engine Co. 107 was directed to attack fires and prevent the spread to others in the park.
ENGINE COMPANY 104
Engine Co. 104 attacked a fire in mobile home park at 8901 Eton Ave.
Later Engine Co. 104 assisted Engine Co. 72 with the extinguishment of several mobile homes involved with fire.
Engine Co. 87 investigated the collapse of the 4 story Kaiser Hospital at 10401 Balboa Bl. Investigation found no persons trapped.
Battalion 15 found a 2 story condo fire- 2 buildings fully involved- at Lindley Ave. and Andrea Circle. Directed by Battalion 15, Engine Co. 87 with assistance from Engine Co.'s 70, 73 and 103 attacked the fire and prevented it from spreading throughout the complex.
ENGINE COMPANY 103
Engine Co. 103 found a 3 story science building at California State University at Northridge with fire showing on the 3rd floor. This building is placard with 4x4x4-W. After being assured that no occupants were in the building, E 103 was directed by Battalion 15 to a reported fire at 9250 Canoga Ave. E 103 found a 75' X 250' commercial building fully involved. LF 96 was on scene.
TRAIN DERAILMENT WITH ACID SPILL
Continuing the drive through, Engine Co. 103 found 4 locomotives and 24 cars of a Southern Pacific freight train derailed with several tank cars leaking sulfuric acid (65%).
Directed Engine Co. 103 to respond to the structure fire involving 2 mobile homes at 19120 Nordoff St.
Directed to assist the companies fighting the 2 story condo
fire- 2 buildings fully involved- at Lindley Ave. and Andrea Circle.
ENGINE COMPANY 8
Engine Co. 8 reported several buildings heavily damaged in their district. They then responded to Balboa Bl. to assist with the explosion and fire involving the ruptured gas main reported by Engine Co. 18. They found numerous dwellings burning on both sides of Balboa Bl. with a spectacular fire leaping over a 100' into the air from the ruptured gas line. Engine Co. 8 attacked the dwelling fires on the southwest side. With the assistance of Engine Co. 18 on the north side and Engine Co. 74 on the east side, this fire was contained and a major conflagration prevented from occurring in the area.
COMMAND OF NORTHRIDGE INCIDENTS
In addition to a Battalion Chief and his Staff Assistant, Battalion 15 has assigned 2 Truck Companies, 8 Engine Companies (2 of which are 2 piece companies), and 3 Paramedic Ambulances. Each of these companies promptly became engaged in emergency operations minutes after the onset of the earthquake.
Battalion 15 covers a geographic area of roughly 23 square miles. From this district my Command Post had received approximately 60 separate major incidents. These incidents were reported directly to me by my Company Commanders, while performing their respective "district drive throughs", from OCD., or from "Still Alarms" reported by the public directly to the Command Post.
Because of the numerous incidents being reported to me from Battalion 15 companies during their district drive throughs, and the numerous fires I could personally observe, I decided to make on scene assessments of those incidents I deemed the most critical.
I made on scene assessments and directed the initial
operations of the following incidents:
1. Explosion of a 20" gas feeder main and rupture at a 56" DWP water feeder main and multiple dwellings fully involved with numerous exposures at 11700 Balboa Bl..
2. Structure fire in a condo complex at Lindley and Andrea Circle.
3. Partially collapsed apartment buildings on Lassen St. from Lindley Ave. to Reseda Bl.
4. Partially collapsed apartment buildings at 9810-20 N. Reseda Bl. with possibility of trapped victims.
5. Northridge Meadows Apartment building collapse at 9565 N. Reseda Bl. with numerous persons trapped.
6. Severely damaged apartment buildings on Nordhoff St. east of Tampa Ave.
7. Northridge Fashion Center parking structure collapse at 9301 Tampa Ave. with one man trapped beneath tons of concrete.
8. Collapse of the 3 story Bullocks department store at the Northridge Fashion Center at 9301 N. Tampa Ave.
BATTALION 15 OPERATIONS CONTINUED
My first action was to stop a small brush fire near Fire Station 28's quarters. This fire was threatening several homes and had a serious potential to developing into a major brush fire as it was moving in the direction of an overgrown canyon. I contacted Engine Co. 70 and directed them to extinguished the fire. I then decided to assess the natural gas main fire on Balboa Bl. My major concern was not the gas fire itself, but to determine if the recently installed Mobile Oil Company crude oil transmission line paralleling the gas line had ruptured. If this transmission line had ruptured and was involved with fire, it would flow down the 2% grade passing 2 medical buildings, 2 hospitals, numerous apartment buildings and dwellings, involve hundreds of parked vehicles and terminate at the front door of Fire Station 87 and an adjacent shopping complex. Such an eventuality would have been a catastrophic disaster. Fortunately, the crude oil line had not ruptured.
I then responded to the Northridge Meadows Apartment collapse at 9565 N. Reseda Bl. I met with Captain II Fickett of LF 70 who had just returned to this site with only his Ladder Truck an A/O and 2 firemen. He had assigned Engine 270 to extinguish a dwelling fire, preventing it from spreading to other structures. At this time I directed Captain Fickett to initiate search and rescue operations at the apartment complex and I informed him that I had no other resources available to assist him. I would give him additional companies as soon as they became available. Captain Fickett and his crew immediately commenced rescue operations. Knowing that they would be working alone and that back up assistance would be delayed, LF70 heroically and with complete disregard for their own safety, immediately began tunneling deep into the wreckage of the collapsed structure in search of trapped victims.
At this time Doctor Palmer arrived on scene. Captain Fickett directed Dr. Palmer to establish a Medical Division and take charge of all medical emergencies.
Engine Co. 270 returned to 9565 Reseda and commenced work with their Truck Co. in the rescue operations.
During this time, other companies assigned to Battalion 15 were reporting fires in large commercial buildings and in mobile home parks. Because there were no immediate exposures at the commercial fires, these companies concentrated their operations on the fires in the mobile home parks.
I then proceeded to Reseda Bl. and Nordhoff St. where I established my Command Post and Staging Area. This site was selected because the intersection is well known and there is a large parking lot nearby well suited for staging.. The site was also centrally located in the middle of most of the activities occurring in the Battalion. In addition, this site has very few overhead obstructions or power lines that might further interfere with radio reception.
BATTALION 15 OPERATIONS CONTINUED
As Companies reported various incidents or updated their status, the information was recorded and prioritized at the Battalion 15 Command Post. I then re-assigned the Companies to the various fires or rescue operations as I deemed most important.
My strategy for handling the multitude of fires, structure collapses, train derailments, freeway collapses, gas line explosions, and hazardous material incidents was as follows:
For the first hour after the earthquake many of the Battalion 15 Companies independently handled emergencies of major proportions. As I gathered information from the Company Officers I was able to determined the current status and location of all major incidents in the Battalion. I then initiated actions to;
1. Prevent any fire from becoming a major conflagration.
2. Identify all collapsed structures with people trapped
and initiate maximum
3. Re-survey every street in the Battalion.
In the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake the major loss of life occurred two days after the initial quake when a series of un-contained fires merged and created a major conflagration killing many people and nearly burning the entire city to the ground.
With the multitude of major fires burning through out the Battalion, including 3 small brush fires, there was an extreme potential for one or more of these fires becoming a major conflagration. In addition, in the North/East section of the Battalion, in the Balboa-Rinaldi, area the wind was blowing about 20 to 25 mph. Therefore, my primary action was for the immediate containment of all major fires. All fires with immediate or potential exposures were given the highest priority and assigned at least one Fire Company. Companies involved with other structure fires without the above potential were redirected and those fires were left to burn.
COLLAPSED STRUCTURES WITH TRAPPED VICTIMS
My second priority was to identify all structural collapses with potential victims and initiate maximum rescue efforts. As early as possible each such incident was assigned a Fire Company whose orders were to remain on scene and commence immediate rescue operations. Although completely overwhelmed with their assigned tasks, these Companies ( LF 70 at the Northridge Meadows Collapse, LF 89 at the Fashion Center Parking Structure Collapse and E 18 at the I-14 onto the I-5 Freeway Collapse ) served several vital functions. They laid the foundation for the
major rescue operations, they reassured and calmed the general public, they provided a sense of security and hope for trapped victims, and they maintained a line of communication between the incident and the Incident Commander at the Command Post. As resources became available they were immediately assigned to the various rescue operations.
RE-SURVEY THE DISTRICT
After the containment of the fires and after all physical rescue operations were fully implemented it was necessary to reassess the entire district. This served several purposes. Most importantly it looked for any serious situations that may have been overlooked during the hectic first hour after the earthquake. It identified tactical situations that would hinder Fire Department operations such as hydrant grids with low or nonexistent pressure, or damaged bridges or unusable streets. And the presence of Fire Companies driving through these districts greatly reassured and calmed the public. As additional resources arrived in the Command Post they were directed to re-drive Battalion 15, district by district.
All of the above mentioned activities were initiated in the first 2 and 1/2 hours of the Earthquake. By 0700, every significant incident in the Northridge area as well as in all of Battalion 15 had been identified, assessed and emergency operations initiated. From this time forward my primary function involved supervising the multitude of incidents, contending with the miserable radio communications and coordinating the assignment of additional resources to each emergency site.
There were many significant obstacles encountered during this initial period, which included working in almost total darkness, complete loss of water pressure, fallen power lines, erratic vehicular traffic, numerous citizens dazed and wandering aimlessly in the streets, roadways blocked by debris and freeways and bridges damaged or destroyed.
The 4 primary obstacles impeding our operations were:
2. Failure of the Fire Department communication system.
3. Shortage of fire and rescue resources, including
manpower, apparatus and
4. No helicopter for aerial reconnaissance of the Battalion.
The strategy I now employed provided plans to immediately assign later arriving companies to the incidents that I deemed most important. I planned to assign LAFD Urban Search & Rescue 1 to the Northridge Meadows Apartment at 9565 N. Reseda Bl. to assist in rescue operations at the collapsed building. I planned to utilize the HU56 and County USAR. company at Northridge Fashion Center Parking Structure at 9301 N. Tampa Ave. to assist in rescue of a victim beneath a collapsed parking structure.
At approximately 0520 hrs. the first additional companies began arriving. Battalion 15 was augmented by 2 Light Forces, 7 Engine Companies, one Reserve Rescue Ambulance, one Battalion Chief and Dr. Palmer.
The additional Companies were dispatched as follows:
At approximately 0800 hours, Battalion Chief DeFeo reported to me that USAR 1 had arrived at the Northridge Meadows Apartment Collapse. This company did not report to the Battalion 15 CP as directed and therefore delayed getting into rescue operations for approximately 30 - 40 minutes!
In a continuing attempt to prioritize the major incidents in Northridge, it was necessary to change the assignment of various companies to those incidents I deemed more serious. Although LF 96 was already handling several incidents, I reassigned them to 9810 N. Reseda Bl. where it was reported that a 3 story apartment building had sustained severe damage with people trapped. LF 96 investigated and found no persons trapped. I then directed LF 96 to a reported structure fire at California State University at Northridge. LF 96 reported a fire on the 3rd floor of a placarded 4X4X4-W building of the college. The building was unoccupied at the time and it posed no threat to exposures. I re-directed LF 96 not to fight the fire and at 0720 hours reassigned them to the Northridge Meadows Apartment rescue operation at 9565 Reseda Bl.
Assistant Chief J. Young, Division III, "C" Platoon, requested that I include in this report an hourly breakdown with the number of companies working in Battalion 15's area of responsibility. The hourly breakdown of companies is as follows:
On January 17th the Los Angeles City Fire Department faced one of it's greatest challenge of it's 108 year history. The ability to successfully and expediently contain and control the multitude of serious incidents and prevent the development of a major conflagration following the Northridge Earthquake is a credit to the members of this Department.
During and after the earthquake, all members working in the Battalion 15 area displayed exemplary courage and dedication. In addition, an incredible amount of initiative, enthusiasm, endurance, both physical and mental, was displayed. Throughout all of their endeavors, cool heads and true professionalism was observed.
There's an old axiom in the fire service that states "It's the first 2 hours that dictates success or failure." This axiom is used more often regarding major brush fires, but can also apply to a catastrophic event such as a major earthquake.
It is during this period that the strategy is formulated and the foundation for the overall incident is developed and implemented. To fail in the initial stages of an emergency generally impedes all following operations. Fire companies are often times tempted to initiate immediate operations at the first crisis they come upon. Sometimes taking immediate action best suits the overall strategy and other times it is best not to commit until all other considerations are investigated.
It is much to their credit that most Company Commanders on duty on January 17, 1994, maintained strict discipline and diligently followed the Departments Emergency Earthquake Procedures. These Commanders understood the importance of the Company "Drive Through" and " Radio/Status" communications with their Incident Commander. It was with great difficulty that they accomplished these functions. Sometimes it required great courage and strong discipline to drive past burning and /or collapsed buildings and frantic citizens demanding their attention. Their precise observations of conditions in their districts and their communication of these conditions allowed me to prioritize and allocate scarce resources to the proper incident.
Had LF 70 commenced rescue operations at the first damaged building they encountered, they would never have discovered and reported the situations at the Northridge Meadows Apartments and the Northridge Fashion Center. Those rescue operations would have been seriously delayed.
For those few companies unable to complete their district drive throughs, I assigned other companies to this task as soon as they became available to me.
Because of the news media's passion for sensationalism and the cameraman's easy access for photographing the dramatic rescue operations at the Northridge Meadows Apartment collapse and the Fashion Center Parking Structure collapse, these incidents were highly publicized. We should however, not over look the many other Fire Department Operations through out the Battalion that saved much more property and many more lives.
The many fires involving mobile homes in several different mobile home parks located in the Battalion seriously threatened the lives of hundreds of people. Approximately 80% of the residents in these parks are elderly and many are invalids. Almost all of the mobile homes were knocked from their jacks and many of the occupants had been thrown to the floor and were unable to leave without help.
Upon arrival, Fire Companies found homes fully involved and spreading to others. Aggressive firefighting and judicious use of hand lines and water prevented these fires from becoming major conflagrations.
Similar conditions were encountered by other companies. Aggressive actions prevented large condo complexes and dwellings in various neighborhoods from also becoming conflagrations.
In conclusion it must be said that the Fire Departments'
Emergency Earthquake Procedures and the training to maintain proficiency with these
procedures were validated during the Northridge earthquake disaster. Never before has such
a major tenant of the Fire Departments' basic operational procedures been given such a
test and performed so well.
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