Sunday, February 23, 2003

Back-to-back fires keep crews busy

Firefighters' ranks stretched by hotel, apartment blazes

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It's been a long time since Cincinnati firefighters were stretched as thinly as they were Saturday.

First, 85 firefighters surged upon the downtown Westin Hotel to attack a four-alarm fire at 8 a.m. Within two hours, about 15 rushed back to the fire engines on Fifth and Vine streets so they could help their colleagues also fighting flames in Avondale.

While no one was injured at the Westin blaze, two Cincinnati firefighters were transported to University Hospital for injuries they sustained while fighting flames that swept through an Avondale apartment building. They were treated and released.

About 60 firefighters responded to the Avondale fire. The back-to-back blazes meant that 70 percent of the on-duty firefighters were in service.

"This is a pretty rare occurrence," Assistant Fire Chief Mike Kroeger said. "(But) I can't tell you how frustrated we felt.

There are always about 190 firefighters stationed throughout Cincinnati. When firefighters were ordered to the Westin, fire dispatchers began moving others like chess pieces, making sure that no part of the city would go vulnerable.

The strategy is why firefighters could attack the apartment building fire at 3495 Burnet Ave. three minutes after fire dispatchers received the 911 call at 9:29 a.m.

"Thank goodness the four-alarm was winding down," Kroeger said. "These firefighters were able to respond directly to that fire."


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