More than 100 firefighters called to downtown Austin for 2nd alarm high-rise fire

More than 100 firefighters were called to downtown Austin to help with a 2nd alarm high-rise fire.

“Our fire alarms went off and it was more of the visible alarm that went off.” A flashing light first led Spencer Stevens and his colleagues to know something may be wrong as they were working Wednesday afternoon in the Perry Brooks building just after 1:00.

Stevens works for the Strasburger & Price Law Firm housed inside the building, “The assistant called the building manager to make sure it wasn't a drill and once she did that, she came back and said no we need to evacuate.”  Working in a high-rise building he said his team holds fire drills twice a year for this very situation and their practice paid off, “Everybody was calm, everybody just kind of exited the building with fine form fashion,” he said.

It was a different situation for the Austin Fire Department.

Division Chief Palmer Buck said firefighters were investigating a fire alarm panel as smoke started filling all three floors and flames were traveling to the 9th and 10th floors through a pipe chase. That forced a second alarm to be called, bringing in 20 units and more than a hundred firefighters to the scene. 

“That's the kind of staffing we need to fight fires in high-rise buildings,” Division Chief Buck said.

Investigators said the fire originated from a generator being worked on. It overheated and started a fire in the exhaust system. The first team was able to get the flames out so the 2nd alarm team was called off about twenty minutes later.

Division Chief Buck said with fighting high-rise fires, it's not quick and it's more of a campaign fight they have to plan, “We have to get our logistics right, we open stairwells up, we provide supplies and air bottles to make sure crews have what they need to fight the fire. It's not something that's going to go out very quickly; it's not something done very quickly. The crews did that here to perfection, the procedures were followed, a testament to the training they do everyday”

AFD's response is something Stevens said puts his mind at ease working in a high-rise building.

“They were here quickly, there are quite a number of fire department personnel here, so no I don’t have any concerns with working in the downtown area,” he said.

Dozens were working inside at the time of the fire and had to be evacuated, no one was injured.

Brazos was closed for a few hours while the fire crews worked the scene.