The RS3 firefighting robot pushes aside debris after fire swept through a commerical building Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. - Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Fire Department

The RS3 firefighting robot pushes aside debris after fire swept through a commerical building Tuesday morning in Los Angeles.

Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Fire Department

Los Angeles fire officials took advantage of a major emergency Tuesday morning to unveil a new fire-fighting robot originally scheduled to be demonstrated to the public later the same day.

A fire in a textile business in downtown Los Angeles devastated one building and spread into another, requiring the response of nearly 150 firefighters, local media report.

The RS3 is a remote controlled, track mounted robotic monitor from Textron (Howe & Howe Technologies) which can perform multiple functions, especially at complex and extended commercial and industrial fires where it can be used to keep firefighters out of harm’s way. Weighing 3,500 pounds, the robot was used in the ‘dozer’ mode to clear debris from inside the structure to facilitate a more effective attack on the fire while eliminating the need to put any firefighters at risk.

At 4:43 a.m., Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 801 S Crocker Street in downtown Los Angeles. The arriving fire companies found a one-story commercial building with fire showing, the LAFD Facebook page reports.

An immediate offensive operation began with crews going to the roof for vertical ventilation while fire attack made entry to meet the flames head on. Their aggressive initial efforts achieved good progress against the blaze and it appeared to be extinguished approximately 40 minutes later.

However, the 8,794 square foot building, constructed in 1972, contained a heavy fire load created by stacks of rolled fabric and the fire extended into the adjoining building.

With additional resources, the incident transitioned into a two branch operation to more effectively and safely manage the many firefighters on scene now spread throughout two separate buildings.

Branch One oversaw operations in the original fire unit on Crocker Street while Branch Two covered 722 E 8th Street. Branch Two truck companies went to the roof to conduct vertical ventilation while the engine companies cut open the rolling steel door at the entrance to initiate an offensive fire attack.

Heavy fire blew out from the holes cut into the roof, quickly indicating the size of the deep seated fire. The engine companies were hampered in making forward progress by the stacked textiles and these circumstances necessitated a shift to a defensive operation.

Meanwhile, Branch One remained in the offensive mode and worked to save as much of the business as possible. A fierce battle ensued over the next three and a half hours before the Incident Commander, Assistant Chief Surgey Tomlinson, declared a knockdown.

Ultimately, eight businesses housed within the three buildings (801 Crocker Street, 722 E 8th Street and 718 E 8th Street) sustained heavy smoke, fire and/or water damage. There were no civilian injuries, but one firefighter was transported to the hospital for a non-life threatening heat related illness.

The LAFD Arson and Counter-Terrorism Section (ACTS) responded per protocol for an incident of this size and are actively investigating the cause of the fire.

The RS3 was purchased and donated to the Department by the LAFD Foundation. Measuring five feet five inches wide and tall, the seven foot long robot comes with an 8,000 pound winch and can operate on a slope as steep as 50 percent.

A front mounted plow blade is used to push aside debris as large as a car. The robot also comes with an 8,000 pound winch and a 2,500 gpm nozzle capable of a hose stream reaching 300 feet horizontal and 150 feet vertical. Powering the unit is a 36 horsepower engine with a run time of 20 hours without refueling.