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3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly…

3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It (2002)

by Sean Flynn

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My husband grew up in Worcester, where this book takes place, and is obsessed with the work police and fire do. I'm rather surprised it took us both this long to read this, but I'm glad we finally did. Hubby, who's not a big reader, read this in less than a week & I finished it in one setting. We watched the news coverage non stop while this happened, and I was able to go to see the funeral procession, something I'll never forget.

This is the true story of the bad building, the fire that killed 6 brave men, and the firefighters in the surrounding areas who tried to save them, and then later to pull the bodies out of the building in order for the families to have closure. ( )
  anastaciaknits | Oct 29, 2016 |
Sean Flynn writes for Esquire and this is based partially on an article he wrote about the terrible fires suffered by Worcester, Massachusetts. The town has lost much of its industrial base and there were many abandoned buildings that were worth more from insurance claims than as empty buildings. It was not uncommon for engine companies to be called out to fires three to five times per night. Sometimes, the fire might be a prelude to the big one, a small fire just enough to set off the sprinkler system, which then would be inactivated until the mechanisms could be replaced. The arsonist would then return to set a fire that would be unchecked by sprinklers, and the firemen would return to the same building several hours later to find a massive fire engulfing the building.

On December 3, 1999, an inferno erupted in the Worcester Cold Storage, ignited by the candles of two vagrants. It was a windowless warehouse just waiting to explode. The building was a labyrinth of segregated rooms, making it hard for the men to communicate and difficult to ventilate, making backdrafts (superheated air at the ceiling ignites smoke particles and gases causing sudden intense heat of thousands of degrees) more likely. Built before refrigeration, when massive amounts of insulating material were required to keep ice cold, the walls were filled with cork, and later polystyrene (made from petroleum) was added. Inside was a jumble of hallways, each having a door that was intended to close tightly after one passed through, in order to keep the cold in. The layers of cork and polystyrene insulation burned vigorously, giving off toxic fumes and intense heat.

The structure became a fireman's nightmare. The vagrants, who set the fire accidentally, left the building and didn’t report it, so by the time firemen arrived several hours later, the building was well engulfed on the inside. Reports that some homeless people lived in the building made the job of surveying the inside much more urgent. Rescue units got lost in the darkness and became trapped. Each fireman, breathing at a normal rate, had only thirty minutes of air in the cylinder on his back; only fifteen minutes if under stress or working hard.

As a civilian listening to the book, I could not help but wonder why they were limited to such a short time. Apparently, it's deliberate because they don't want firemen to be exposed to the in tense heat for more than 20-30 minutes without going outside for relief. The special bunker clothes they wear keep them from burning, but they trap heat, and when firemen sweat, it sometimes becomes so hot inside their clothes that the sweat turns to steam! The environment of that fire was so hot that water from a 2.5 inch hose would flash to steam when it hit. Their radios would have been more helpful had they been channeled. The firemen were constantly speaking over the top of one another, and the microphones had a dangerous tendency to short out when they inevitably got wet.

Six firemen were killed. Two men searching the building got lost and couldn't find their way out. Indeed, firemen say that's the problem with Hollywood fire movies. They always show a brightly burning area well-lit with orange flames. In reality, the screen should be totally black, because the smoke can be so intense they can't see anything and spend most of the time crawling on the floor (where it's much cooler anyway). Four more men died trying to find the first two. They also became lost and could not be found.

Finally, after a personal attempt to get up the stairs, the chief ordered all the men out of the building, despite their futile attempts to rush back in to find the trapped men. They had to resort to an exterior, defensive attack, just throwing more "wet stuff on the red stuff," something my civilian mind thinks they should have done right from the beginning. The building was abandoned anyway. The article this book was based on appeared in Esquire entitled “The Perfect Fire.” It’s definitely a worthy complement to The Perfect Storm, another tragic but wonderfully evocative book. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
3000 Degrees by Sean Flynn.

This book is both enthralling and absolutely heartbreaking. It's the story of a warehouse fire in Worcester, Mass. which killed 6 firefighters. It's not a long book (only 245 pages) but the author does an admirable job of both introducing us to the firefighters -- helping the reader see them as real human beings -- and describing the horrible inferno they were battling. Flynn presents little things about the firefighters' lives that really give you a sense of what kind of person each of them was. And the descrition of the fire demonstrates how a blaze that, at first, seems to be relatively contained can turn deadly in an instant -- especially when understaffed fire teams have insufficient and/or inadequate equipment.

This book has given me an even greater appreciation of firefighters and the risks they take in the line of duty. ( )
  tymfos | Jul 23, 2009 |
This is a minute by minute account of the terrible fire in the Worcester Cold Storage facility that killed six fireman, and changed the lives of many more. Despite knowing the outcome from the beginning, this book is an exciting, edge-of-the-seat read. I found my heart pounding during the account of the fire and I cried as I read of the families being informed. One cannot help but admire the courage of these men, who willingly put their lives on the line to save lives and protect property as a matter of course. Most of the time the gamble pays off, but rare as it is, sometimes the fire wins. This account of one of those times is a definite must-read. ( )
  seldombites | Jun 11, 2008 |
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The smoke banked down like bolts of black velvet, heavy sheets curling and rolling and folding together.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446690953, Paperback)

On December 3, 1999, the call came in to the men of the Worcester, Massachusetts, Fire Department: a five-alarm blaze in a six-story, abandoned, windlowless warehouse filled with lethal hallways and meat lockers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

On December 3, 1999, the call crackled in to the men of the Worcester, Massachusetts Fire Department: a three-alarm warehouse blaze in a six-story windowless colossus of brick and mortar. Firefighters love the excitement of a "triple." But this was a different beast. Rollovers, flashovers, backdrafts, this one had it all. Swallowed deep in the building, with no way out, they struggled to survive an ill-fated ordeal that would push them to the very limits of loyalty and courage. What happened next and how their lives and community were changed forever, offers an unprecedented look at these heroic men whose job it is to rush into burning buildings when everyone else just wants out.… (more)

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