Warsaw Fire Dept. warns of weak roofs after firefighter falls through

WARSAW, N.C. (WNCT)–A fire department in the East is raising concerns about roof structures and the safety of fire fighters when responding.

The Warsaw Fire Department responded to a residential fire off Stewart Circle on Sunday.

While arriving, smoke was pouring out of the building.

“We hadn’t been there that long when we noticed that the roof was deteriorating,” Chief John Blackmore said. “It surprised us because usually, a roof will hold up a little bit longer than what this one was doing.”

While responding, a fireman fell through the roof. Luckily he wasn’t injured. Only after did the department notice something troubling.

“The components of the roof are 3/8 or less inch plywood on a 24-inch roof system, which means the rafters are 24 inches apart,” Deputy Chief Joal Smith said.

The plywood wasn’t thick enough to support the weight, and is less than current code requirements of 5/8 inch.

“We want to get the word out to other firefighters in this area to be extremely cautious of these roofs,” Chief Blackmore said. “Pay attention to them especially under fire conditions. Know that these roofs can deteriorate very rapidly.”

The apartments were constructed in the 1970s. Updates were made since then, but not to the roof structure.

“We hope the new building codes are being enforced and so that other departments don’t experience what we did over the weekend,” Assistant Chief Lee Graham said.

The department says there is a lesson from this story.

“Nobody likes to talk about the close calls or doesn’t like to talk about it when things don’t go perfectly, but that’s one way that we can learn,” Chief Blackmore said.

The insurance company is still assessing the damage and there’s no set date for when renovations will begin.

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