Box 1, Folder 14, Document 3

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Box 1, Folder 14, Document 3

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Management Information Service

International City Managers’ Association / May 1969, Vol. 1 No. L-5


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Civil disorders accompanied by
fire destruction are not new in
this country. Nor are fire prob-
lems created by riots signifi-
cantly different from those
possible under nonriot con-

Yet fire fighting during civil
disorders is obviously more diffi-
cult than under normal circum-
stances. The violent reaction of
spectators, the duration of a
riot, and the intense news cover-
age given serious disturbances
add new dimensions of com-

Experience in dealing with fire
problems caused by rioters sug-
gests the need for establishing a
task force system, under which a
coordinated group of fire com-
panies travels and operates as a
self-sufficient unit throughout
the emergency. Confinement of
fires, rather than prevention of
fire losses, and rotation of man-
power to prevent fatigue are
other key factors in effective fire
fighting during riots. In addition,
adequate communications and
command posts are essential to
keep tab on fire developments.

City administrators should
recognize that the typical fire
department is inadequately
manned and equipped to deal ef-
fectively with fire problems
caused by riots. Among major
elements in an emergency opera-
tions plan should be steps for
police protection of fire fighters,
provision of adequate fire alarm
systems, plans for purchase of
apparatus suited to riot condi-
tions, and arrangments for
calling fire-fighting assistance as

a a F


Fire Department

Civil Disorders

This report was prepared for MIS by Boyd
A. Hartley, Associate Professor, Department of
Fire Protection Engineering, Illinois Institute
of Technology.

Location: A community of about 20,000 people
on the East Coast. Background: There had been
trouble in town and soldiers were on duty in the
event of further trouble. Fire protection consisted of
a volunteer fire department with outside sounding de-
vices to indicate an alarm of fire. Situation: About
9:15 P.M. the alarm bells rang. The people of the
community turned out to fight the fire and to watch
the firemen. But it was a false alarm; there was no
fire. Instead of going home, the crowd began to jeer
at the soldiers, calling them names and throwing
things. The soldiers eventually lost their composure
and fired into the crowd, killing five people of whom
three were volunteer firemen.

Sound familiar? Read on.

A tide of people swarming into the big cities were
causing labor and welfare problems. “These people”
were looked down upon, persecuted, and exploited in
the labor market. Most were penniless, seeking out a
bare existence in the slums. It was impossible for one
of “these people” to succeed in business or politics;
fire and police departments would not consider them
for membership.

As “these people” became more numerous, they
were shut off more and more from the social life of
the community, keeping to themselves in their own
slums and ghetto areas. In one large community, after
several weeks of sensational rumors of immoral condi-
tions and strange behavior among “these people,”
particularly in their churches, a mob formed and

‘marched on the area in which they lived. The mob

eventually destroyed the principal church, a four-
story 80-foot-long building, by burning it to the
ground while preventing firemen from fighting the

On another occasion in the same city, a riot even-
tually resulted in ransacking of every house in the
ghetto area, with windows broken, furniture thrown
into the street, and shops smashed and destroyed.

In another city, some shots were fired at a political
rally and the resulting riots lasted four days, with a
school, three large churches, and blocks of buildings
destroyed by fire.

The emotional response generated against the con-
stant increase of “these people” was such that a na-
tional political party was formed and received con-
siderable support from citizens, many of them well
known, who had previously supported the existing
two-party system. A nationally known political figure
ran for president of the United States under the aus-
pices of this party but, fortunately, was defeated.

Sound familiar again? Maybe, but I doubt you
have recognized any of these situations.

The first was a riot in Boston on March 5, 1770,
commonly known as the Boston Massacre. The inci-
dent was considered to be of particular influence in
solidifying the inhabitants of the British colonies be-
hind those advocating a rebellion, now better known
as the revolutionary war.
The second series of incidents occurred as a result
of Irish immigration into the United States in the

middle of the nineteenth century. The riots described -

occurred in Boston in 1834 and 1837 and in Philadel-
phia in 1844; “these people” were Irish Catholic im-
migrants. There were_a number of riots in those cities
most affected by the immigration, and many of the
riots resulted in destruction by fire and direct conflict
between the firemen and gangs of Irish toughs as well
as other normally peace-loving Irishmen defending
their slum residences.

The political party founded on an antiforeigner
bias, especially anti-Irish and anti-Catholic, was the
Native American party, commonly known as the
Know-Nothings. Former President Millard Fillmore
ran for another term on the Know-Nothing ticket
and, fortunately, was unsuccessful.

A History of Riots

By now it is obvious that public riots are nothing
new in this country. In fact, we have a long history of
riots accompanied by fire destruction of property,
beginning with our earliest history.

There was a wave of incendiarism in many cities in
1676, and a large fire occurred in Boston with some
feeling that sermons by Reverend Increase Mather,
better known for his later connection with the witch-
craft trials, encouraged the arsonists. In 1715, before
New York or Philadelphia had even one fire engine in
service, Boston had a board of “fire wards’ with re-
sponsibility not only for extinguishing fires but also
for suppressing all disorders.

A series of fires in New York City in 1741 ap-
peared to be caused by a conspiracy of Negro slaves
and resulted in trials and executions with eventually
154 Negroes sent to jail, 13 burned at the stake, 18
hanged, and 70 transported. Twenty whites were
jailed, 4 hanged, and 8 transported.

The Committee of Vigilance was founded in San
Francisco in 1851 during the gold rush boom as a
result of fires started by the criminal element known
as Hounds, who robbed shops, stores, and homes in
the path of the fires. The vigilante system spread
through the gold rush area until eventually super-
seded by law and order.

Some of the worst riots in the history of this coun-
try occurred in 1863 as a result of opposition to the
draft during the Civil War, with riots, fires, and dem-
onstrations in cities and towns of New York, New
Jersey, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Missouri, and Kentucky. Confederate saboteurs took
advantage of the riots to destroy food and ammuni-
tion supplies and arms factories while encouraging the
Northerners to fight among themselves. In New York
City there were three days of draft riots during which
1,200 people lost their lives and many buildings in all
parts of the city were destroyed by fire.


May 1969 — Vol. 1 No. L-5
Editor: Walter L. Webb

Management Information Service reports are
published monthly by the International City
Managers’ Association, 1140 Connecticut Ave-
nue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Copyright
© 1969 by the International City Managers’
Association. No part of this report may be re-
produced without permission of the copyright

Subscription rates (including inquiry-an-
swering and additional services) are based on
population of subscribing jurisdiction and will
be furnished on request.

This report is intended primarily for sub-
scribing jurisdictions above 25,000 population.
Concurrent monthly reports, prepared primar-
ily for jurisdictions below 25,000 population,
are available from Management Information

The Fire Problem

The fire problem created by a riot or civil disturb-
ance is not much different from the problem that has
been present in most cities all along but has been
ignored under the philosophy that “it can’t happen
here.” This statement is better understood by analysis
of the fire problem normally present in every commu-


Most fires are small fires. The National Fire Protec-
tion Association defines a large-loss fire as one involv-
ing a loss of $250,000 or more. The NFPA reports
that about 10 percent of all fires in the United States
and Canada account for 90 percent of all property-
damage loss; conversely stated, 90 percent of the fires
account for only 10 percent of the loss. Fires causing
individual losses of $250,000 or more represent less
than 0.02 percent of the total number of fires but
account for 20 percent to 25 percent of the total fire
loss in any one year.

NFPA statistics for the calendar year 1967, the
latest available at the time of this writing, bear out
these general statements. In 1967, there were 471
fires in the United States and Canada that caused
$250,000 or more property damage each; the total
number of fires that year was 960,900. Thus, the

large-loss fires were only 0.049 percent of the total,
or about one-half of one-tenth of 1 percent. The total
damage from these fires was estimated at
$443,471,000 out of a total fire loss of
$1,623 ,000,000. It is particularly noteworthy that
only three of the large-loss fires contributed $148
million of the total damage caused by large-loss fires
during 1967.

Typical Small Fire. From these data and by analysis
of the fire statistics of any given community it be-
comes clear that most fires within a city are ex-
tremely small, easily extinguished by a relatively
small force of men and a few pieces of fire apparatus.
If we add to the statistics of actual fires and fire losses
the large number of fire department responses to false
alarms, it is quite likely that nearly all actual-fire re-
sponses in any given community are to fires well be-
low that classified as a large loss.

Unfortunately, many cities have restricted their
fire departments to a size and efficiency that can
easily handle this type of fire but would be poorly
equipped or prepared to handle larger fires.

One-Building Fire. The next most serious fire situa-
tion in a community is the single large fire involving
one occupancy or one building; this may or may not
be a large-loss fire. Any city with one or more large
buildings — whether an industrial property, an apart-
ment house, a hotel, or a school — has the potential
for this type of fire. ;

When such a large single-building fire occurs, the
fire department will characteristically attempt to ex-
tinguish the fire as quickly as possible while at the
same time minimizing the fire damage. To accomplish
this, every effort is made to advance into the building
and fight the fire from inside. If manpower permits,
salvage operations are carried on during the extin-
guishment phase as well as during subsequent phases.

After extinguishment, the fire-damaged area will
be overhauled to be certain of complete extinguish-
ment and to eliminate the possibility of a rekindled
fire. Even after overhaul, it is quite probable a few
men will be left as a fire watch, with hose lines con-
nected directly to hydrants. During every phase of
the fire-fighting operation, passive spectators will be
controlled without difficulty by a usually ample sup-
ply of policemen.

Multibuilding Fire. The next most serious fire situa-
tion is a single large fire involving several multistory
or multioccupancy buildings. Again, essentially the
same procedure must be followed as described above;
only the magnitude of the fire problem has changed.

Several Large Fires. The most serious fire condition
encountered, usually in only the largest communities,
is several large fires at the same time, widely sepa-
rated or at least not adjacent to one another.

Fires During Civil Disorders

The fire problem encountered during a riot or civil
disorder is essentially one of those described above or
a combination of them. However, additional factors
complicate the problem.

® First, the spectators are not passive bystanders
and may be violently hostile. As the police have a law
enforcement problem of their own in attempting to
quell the riot, they can devote only a limited force to
protect the firemen.

@ Second, whereas the normal fire situation in a
community can be expected to last only a matter of
hours as the period during which maximum man-
power is brought to bear, a riot and its accompanying
fires may last for several days. The duration of a dis-
order intensifies any problems caused by basic inade-
quacies of manpower, apparatus, and equipment.

@ Third, a riot is more spectacular than a large fire
and, being a police problem as well as a fire problem,
receives more publicity in the national news and com-
munications media. For example, the typical citizen
is aware of the riots in Detroit in 1967, lasting for
eight days and resulting in a fire loss estimated up to
$12 million, but hardly anyone outside the immedi-
ate area concerned is aware that a fire in a refinery in
Lake Charles, La., burned for two weeks in 1967 and
resulted in property damage of $20.5 million!


Operational problems caused by riots and possible
solutions have been recognized and discussed by the
International Association of Fire Chiefs. A valuable
pamphlet for every fire department official having
command responsibilities is Fire Fighting During Civil
Disorders, published by the IAFC in 1968.’ This re-
port goes into detail concerning operational problems
that may be expected to occur in any given situation.
Although written for the fire chief, it will be of value
to other city administrators by making them more
aware of fire department problems. The appendix to
this MIS report, which is excerpted from the [AFC
pamphlet, includes a checklist of recommended fire-
fighting procedures during civil disorders.

Several operational features are noteworthy:

1, Experience indicates the best approach is estab-
lishment of a task force system under which a coordi-
nated group of companies travels and operates as a
single unit for the duration of the emergency.

‘Copies of this pamphlet are available at $5 each from

the IACF Headquarters Office, 232 Madison Avenue, New
York, N.Y. 10016.
2. Because of the probable limited capability of
the department, each task force must be self-suffi-
cient; the task force must handle its assigned problem
without recourse to any assistance.

3. The operations in many situations must be di-
rected toward confinement of the fire to the building
of origin, with extinguishment at less than a total loss
of the building being improbable.

. 4. Communications must be maintained and com-
mand posts established to determine what is happen-
ing and what must be done next.

5. The possible duration of the riot or civil dis-
order forces establishment of a system for rotation of
manpower to avoid undue fatigue and for continuous
use of fire apparatus.

What Can the
City Administration Do?

Many fire chiefs have recognized the necessity for
a more adequate and better trained and equipped fire
force than is presently available in the community.
All too often, fire chiefs’ requests for increased fire
protection have been ignored because of costs or the
size of fire normally encountered.

The city administrator must recognize that a small
fire department (in relation to the needs and fire haz-
ards of the community) can extinguish only small
fires and will be overwhelmed when a large fire oc-
curs, whether caused by a civil disorder or not.

The American Insurance Association in its Special
Interest Bulletin No. 319 published in January 1969,
states that “except for the fire departments in a few
of the larger cities, none are adequately manned, with
the result that in many instances the on-duty fire
force may not be able to control a serious fire with-
out the assistance of off-duty members or outside

Ask yourself or your fire chief this question: If the
two largest buildings in our community were burning
down at the same time, would our fire department be
able to extinguish both fires? If the answer is yes, you
may be able to overcome the fire problems encoun-
tered during a riot, if it does not last too long.


Possibly the most important function of the city
administrator is to see that complete and detailed
plans are drawn up for every predictable situation
that may occur during, or result from, a civil disorder.
Obviously not every situation can be covered in this
short report, but the following comments give some
indication of the scope of and necessity for planning
civil disturbance operations.

Police-Fire Cooperation. First and foremost, there
must be cooperation among all city departments and
particularly between the fire department and the po-
lice department. Fire fighters should not be expected
to provide their own protection against injury while
fighting fires and should not be permitted to bear
arms of any description. Protection is a police func-
tion. If the police or other enforcement agencies can-
not provide the necessary protection, fire-fighting
personnel should leave the riot area and allow the
individual buildings to burn, directing their efforts to
preventing the fire from extending beyond the riot

Fire Apparatus. Apparatus purchased in the future
must be selected with riot situations in mind, for even
though a riot or civil disorder may not have occurred,
many cities report an increasing number of incidents
of harassment of firemen. All equipment carried on
fire vehicles should be in closed compartments. Every
vehicle must have protection for firemen, such as
closed cabs of possibly six-man size with shatterproof
glass all around, or protective screens of wire netting,
plastic, wood, metal, or other satisfactory material.
As fires will probably be fought from outside of
buildings and with minimum manpower, every
pumper should have a vehicle-mounted turret noz-

The list of design features could be continued at
some length. In addition, spare parts must be stock-
piled in order to be immediately available. For exam-
ple, a good supply of tires must be on hand, as a
carpet of broken glass will probably lie between the
fire station and the building on fire.

Fire Alarms. It is predictable that all methods of re-
ceiving alarms from the general public will be
swamped and overwhelmed at an early stage of a riot.
A community of any size having only a few fire alarm
operators on duty can fully expect to lose control of
the fire situation and never regain it. The limited
number of trunks usually available on the switch-
board of fire departments will prove to be totally
inadequate for the purpose, and many citizens will be
unable to call the fire department to report fires.

The public telephone system also will likely be
overwhelmed by the number of phone calls placed
during a riot. In addition, it is quite possible that the
telephone system will be destroyed either by sabotage
or fire in the riot area, causing exposed wires on
buildings, in alleys, or on streets. Thus, underground
construction of circuits is not only aesthetically pleas-
ing but also highly practical as a protection against

A municipal fire alarm system is an asset, particu-
larly as a means of receiving alarms of fire from loca-
tions outside the riot area. It should be noted that a
telegraph-type fire alarm box works on a clockwork
mechanism having an operating spring that will run



down if the box is operated repeatedly without being

All fire alarm calls received must be investigated in
some way. Once a riot starts, the police should in-
vestigate all calls from the riot area; the fire depart-
ment should respond only after it is certain there is a
fire to be fought.

Fire-Fighting Assistance. It is vital that written ar-
rangements be made in advance for whatever aid may
be available from nearby communities. This has been
an important factor in the ability to provide fire pro-
tection during riots. However, it must also be kept in
mind that riots may occur in more than one city, and
outside aid may be busy with problems of their own.
Therefore, assistance from other communities should
be depended upon for only a minimum amount of

Arrangements for assistance need not be limited to
other communities or government installations such
as naval bases. It is possible that many cities could get
assistance from the citizens of the community and, in


some cases, from the inhabitants of the riot area.
There have been many occasions when the nonmili-
tant residents of an area have helped firemen by haul-
ing hose and preventing theft of equipment.

In New York City, Engine Company 28 on the
lower East Side responds to alarms accompanied by a
fire department patrol car carrying four Puerto
Ricans and a Negro, aged 16 to 21, who guard the
truck and other equipment to prevert theft, try to
see that firemen are not attacked, help in directing
traffic and giving first aid, and act as interpreters.

The city administrator should also see that the fire
chief and his staff attend conferences and meetings,
both national and regional, where they may listen to
speakers and talk with personnel from other cities to
learn what can be done to fight fires during riots.

Again it should be emphasized that the fire situa-
tion caused by a civil disorder is probably no worse
than could be encountered during times of civil order.
The fact that it occurs during a civil disorder merely
complicates and intensifies the hazards.

Fire-Fighting Procedures During Civil Disorders*

The following important points should be considered in
developing plans for civil disturbance operations.

Fire Problems

1. Police problems should be watched closely for possible
development into fire problems.

2. Time interval between police and fire problems may be a
matter of an hour or days.

3. Helicopters or small planes are effective in evaluating the
dimension and direction of the fire problem. Activate
plans for their use.

Command Posts

1. Number required based on local fire problem(s).
2. Define probable areas in advance.


*Extracted from Fire Fighting During Civil Disorders
(pp. 58-59), published in 1968 by the International Associa-
tion of Fire Chiefs.

3. Site selection based on:
Ample parking space
Wide roads for maneuvering
Communications capabilities
Living accommodations
Cooking facilities
Toilet facilities
Medical facilities
Command operations rooms
Secure area
Near trouble areas
Fuel dispensing facilities

. Mechanical repair facilities

gre rR me poe


1. Prepare communications plan and determine where sup-
plementary communications are available. Civil Defense
may be helpful.

2. Obtain extra portable radio units. These are at a premium
at such times.

3. Inform all personnel of any special signals to be employed
to designate civil disturbance.
. Keep one radio channel clear for operational command

purposes. If supplementary channels are not now avail-
able, start a program to obtain them.

Messages must be screened and those of extreme impor-
tance should be transmitted by telephone, not radio, for
security reasons.

A system of hand signals should be used by department
officers to direct fire fighters.


Relief and Feeding



Plan for relief of crews on a regular basis so that men do
not become exhausted.

Do not overlook planning for feeding crews. Civil Defense
authorities can probably be of great assistance.



Plan for speedy recall of off-duty men and a manning
schedule for splitting two-piece companies and activating
reserve apparatus.

Plan for reassignment of men in salvage companies, etc.,
that may be necessary during such times.




Identify protective measures and procedures for imple-
mentation during times of tension.

Notify police to obtain armed guards for active units.
Order all men to wear full protective equipment, includ-
ing face shields, if available.

Warn all men not to operate alone in the event of trouble;
officers to pay particular attention to pump operators and
hydrant men.

Order all men and officers to wear same colored protec-
tive clothing and helmets when disorder signal is received.
This includes chief officers.

Prepare an evacuation plan for stations in critical areas.
Assign a fire fighter with good first aid knowledge to each

Mutual Aid


Do not call mutual aid until after your own men are

Advise all mutual aid companies that may be called of
your plans and their place in them.

a. Type of equipment which may be needed.

b. Double manning for units to provide for relief.

c. Location to respond to for convoy directions.

Advise mutual aid companies as to where to assemble in
convoys for later response to predetermined assembly


1. Set forth on-site operational activities to be implemented

if a civil disturbance emergency occurs.




. Provide writtefi documentation of authorities and re-

sponsibilties of key participants in the plan.

. Provide basic guidance for gathering intelligence and for

activating communications necessary to make timely and
effective decisions.

. Provide maps and inventories necessary to make effective

decisions and take effective action.

. Identify priorities to be considered in local fire defense.
. Fire service and law enforcement agencies must work

together to solve the problems.

. Frequent briefings must be held with Federal, State,

County, and local law enforcement agencies to keep
aware of any possible condition that might arise.

. Coordinate all plans with local police, sheriff, and Na-

tional Guard and jointly plan police protection for all
task force units.

. Plan a basic task force of two pumpers, one ladder, and

one chief officer for operations. A third pumper may be

substituted if ladder company shortage exists.

All task force companies should immediately remove

axes, bars, nozzles, and other equipment from exterior of

apparatus and place them in compartments or otherwise
under cover.

All open-cab apparatus should immediately be protected

by means of shields previously prepared and in readiness.

Provide mutual aid and command arrangements necessary

for effective fire defense.

Don’t commit your forces until certain of need. Make

certain armed guards are on hand.

Decide whether or not to respond to obvious false


Warn all officers not to respond with red lights or sirens

where mobs are gathered.

Order fire station doors closed and maintain only a mini-

mum of illumination.

Chief officers may have to move from one location to

another due to the numbers of fires.

When an area is considered unsafe, fire alarms should not

be answered in that area.

Units attacked upon responding to an alarm should leave

at once.

Task forces should respond to and return from all calls as

a group.

Use hit and run tactics.

a. Task forces should attempt to knock down and
black out fires as quickly as possible with heavy
streams. Small fires should be attacked with precon-
nected lines to maintain mobility.

b. Keep men together and operate as closely as possible
to apparatus.

c. Keep hose lines to minimum length.
d. Use straight streams for best reach.
e. Make maximum use of wagon pipes, turrets, etc. If

mutual aid is required, make your call immediately.
f. Do not overhaul or even think of salvage.
g. Never let men operate alone — at least two men
should always be with the apparatus.
h. When fire is blacked out, pick up and get out of the
area as quickly as possible.
Provide policies for training personnel as necessary to
cope with potential local fire threat.


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