Firefighter gaffes blamed for injuries

Ignoring rules when rushing into a blaze at Union Square’s Tiffany & Co. high-rise building in October resulted in 10 firefighters being injured, according to a new report.

The smoky, two-alarm fire at 360 Post St., right on Union Square, started at about 6:53 p.m. Oct. 14. About 100 firefighters responded and found heavy smoke throughout the building. The fire was finally discovered in a utility closet in the building’s basement and extinguished about a half-hour later.

The report from the Fire Department faults its firefighters for not wearing their breathing units and fragmenting into several confused groups. The original engine on the scene actually went to the wrong building, and when firefighters entered, they failed to check the lowest floor for flames — standard practice in a high-rise fire.

The first engine to arrive to the area actually changed the address of the reported fire to 475 Sutter St. and had to change it again after they realized the fire was at another building.

“This resulted in delay and confusion as all companies assigned to the building,” the report said.

Once they arrived to the correct building, firefighters checked floors five through 11 for the fire, despite the fire alarm indicators for every floor being “lit up,” with the basement floor being the first indicator to turn on. Firefighters were apparently given different information from civilians in the building.

“In any of these incidents there are always lessons learned,” department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said. “These types of incidents aren’t always cut and dry. Working fires are dynamic, and all you can do is drill and practice for a real emergency.”

The 10 firefighters all suffered from smoke inhalation, something that could have been prevented had they donned their breathing masks in the stairwell, according to the report. Smoke had entered the stairwell because the doors to each floor were propped open by “hose lines and chairs.”

All 10 injured have since returned to duty, Talmadge said.

The Tiffany store escaped serious damage.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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