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High-rise medical building fire mid-surgery [Midtown]

Truck crews laddered the building to gain access to the roof vents to eject smoke from the building.
Truck crews laddered the building to gain access to the roof vents to eject smoke from the building.
Truck crews laddered the building to gain access to the roof vents to eject smoke from the building.

Just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Sacramento Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at the Sutter Medical Building in the Midtown area of Sacramento.

After a search hampered by ongoing construction, firefighters assisted with TIC’s (Thermal Imaging Cameras) were able to locate fire in a wall on the fifth floor in the construction area. The fire was then quickly extinguished.

The building was evacuated due to extensive smoke. Ongoing surgical procedures were interrupted by the incident.  Logistics Chief, Jonathan Williams, said he came through a door searching the building and found a surgery in progress, patient on the table being wrapped for evacuation for by the operating crew and smoke pouring in the ventilation ducts.

“Building engineering just opened up hatches on the roof;  [it] even took him quite a while to do it, and it’s manual which is surprising to us that they don’t have a better air handling system” said Shawn Perry, Battalion Chief, Sacramento Fire Department.

“It’s an older building, under construction, and they are working on these things but, lo-and-behold, we have a real fire and it’s quite a challenge.

“The initial call came in as a commercial alarm but was followed up immediately with a report of smoke on the fifth floor.

“The first arriving engine found smoke on the fifth floor, which raises the bar in terms of what we do. The first in-engine immediately called for additional resources making it a high-rise assignment. That brings a lot of engines and a lot of trucks and there’s a lot of work to do when you have fire on a floor in a commercial building, particularly when you have difficulty getting water to the source of the fire.

“The fire was in an area that was under construction, in a wall. At first it was extremely difficult to locate the fire; smoke was evident. There were a lot of things going on up there, including surgery. The air handling system was moving smoke throughout the fifth floor; so this was very problematic for employees and patients.

“One of the captains (actually Battalion Chief Jonathan Williams) opened a door to find a patient in surgery, there was smoke coming down; they were, in a sense, trying to wrap the patient up and get them out of the area.

“We had two people who [were treated] by our medics due to smoke inhalation and we’re still trying to determine if there were other injuries including the patients that were up there,” Perry said.

“We didn’t actually hear any alarm; the medical assistant came in the room and she said that ‘there’s a fire upstairs, it’s a small fire so you don’t need to worry; you just have to evacuate from the building,’”  said Paramjit Kaur who was in the building with a family member having a medical procedure. They were told to reschedule the procedure Kaur said.

No firefighter injuries were reported. Traffic was impacted for several hours in the area.

 [VIDEO] Battalion Chief Shawn Perry talks about the incident
 High-rise medical building fire, Sutter Medical, November 13, 2013

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