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Context of 'September 13, 2001: Sudden Fire in Crash Area Disrupts Recovery Operations at Pentagon'

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Initial firefighting efforts after the attack on the Pentagon.Initial firefighting efforts after the attack on the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense] (click image to enlarge)Numerous area firefighters and other emergency workers promptly learn of the Pentagon crash and are able to arrive at the crash scene within 5 or 6 minutes of the attack. These responders include members of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) and the Fort Myer Fire Department, plus units belonging to the Fire and Rescue Department of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66] ACFD’s training officer, Captain Chuck Gibbs, reaches the crash site within 3 minutes of the attack, followed a minute later by Battalion Chief Bob Cornwell, who assumes initial incident command responsibilities. ACFD Captain Edward Blunt arrives at 9:42 and establishes Emergency Medical Services control. ACFD Truck 105 is the first unit to arrive, reaching the scene at 9:41. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A5-A6 and 1-1 pdf file] A minute after it, Rescue Engines 161 and 162 of the Fort Myer Fire Department arrive, followed by a reserve pumper, Engine 163. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 68] MWAA fire and medical units, and the first contingent of the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad, also arrive within 5 minutes of the crash. By 10:00 a.m., most of the ACFD duty shift will be engaged at the Pentagon. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A7 pdf file] Federal, state, and local civilian police officers also arrive within minutes of the attack. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] Most Arlington County Police Department officers will have reached the scene within 3 hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file] Several factors have contributed to the prompt emergency response:
bullet The Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for the county, received several calls from emergency workers who saw the low-flying plane approaching the Pentagon (see (9:36 a.m.-9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66]
bullet Some fire and rescue units responded after hearing the radio message of Fire Captain Steve McCoy, reporting the crash. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file]
bullet Numerous emergency units were already on the road near the Pentagon, and were able to quickly respond, after being called out to an apartment fire that was found to have already gone out (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
bullet And MWAA firefighters were already responding to a car crash at nearby Reagan National Airport, had heard the sound of the crash, and saw the resulting smoke rising into the air (see (9:20 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 69-70]

Entity Tags: Chuck Gibbs, Arlington County Fire Department, National Capital Response Squad, Bob Cornwell, Fort Myer Fire Department, Edward Blunt, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After arriving at the Pentagon on September 11 (see 9:42 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FBI is involved in removing bodies and body parts from the crash site. It works closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams and fire department Technical Rescue Teams (TRT). Members of these teams hunt through the debris, searching for survivors. When they find bodies or body parts, they call upon the FBI to photograph, number, and tag these remains. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-54 pdf file] Though the Flight 77 passengers had been in the back of the plane at the time of the crash, most of their remains are found deep inside the building, near the end of the area traveled by the aircraft debris. Conversely, the remains of the suspected hijackers, who would have been at the front of the plane, are found relatively close to the front of the building, where the plane first impacted it. (However, these remains will be identified as belonging to the hijackers only through a process of elimination, as they do not match DNA samples of the victims of the attack.) According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, the location of the remains as such indicates that “the front of the aircraft disintegrated essentially upon impact but, in the process, opened up a hole allowing the trailing portions of the fuselage to pass into the building.” Journalist Steve Vogel concludes, “The fuselage in essence turned inside out as it passed through the Pentagon.” The search and rescue operations at the Pentagon come to an end on the morning of September 22, and the Arlington County Fire Department then turns command of the crash site over to the FBI. [Washington Post, 11/21/2001; Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 432 and 467]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Late in the evening of September 13, 2001, search and rescue operations at the Pentagon have to be temporarily suspended when—after firefighters thought they had the crash site under control—a sizeable fire breaks out, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; NPR, 9/14/2001] The fire erupts in the pile of debris at the impact area where the aircraft hit the Pentagon, and is apparently caused by a “hot spot” that reignited. Fire commanders had been concerned about the smoke coming from the pile earlier in the evening, yet there is no engine available to extinguish any fire. There was an engine by the pile all through the day, but this left at the end of the day shift. Because of tightened security, the engine due to replace it is taking longer than usual to arrive. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 389 and 393] The order goes out: “We need everybody to evacuate. The building is on fire again.” Firefighters and workers for agencies such as the FBI and FEMA evacuate, either to the lawn in front of the crash site or the Pentagon’s center courtyard. Yet the fire appears to be contained in the rubble pile, with little danger of spreading. One worker questions: “So why are they stopping us? Why can’t we keep working?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 393-394 and 400-401] Eventually, a fire truck arrives to tackle the blaze. About two hours after it first flared up, the fire is out and recovery workers can continue their activities. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 394-395 and 401] Firefighting and other rescue operations were also significantly disrupted three times during September 11-12, due to false alarms over unidentified aircraft approaching Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]

Entity Tags: Arlington County Fire Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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