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Flat Roof Systems

Oceanside Duplex Fire
UNION TRIBUNE – Oceanside firefighters extinguish a fire at garage – photo courtesy of Oceanside Fire

Torch Down Roofing is a type of roofing that consists of levels of modified bitumen–similar to asphalt, that are adhered to layers of fiberglass with a flame torch. Torch Down Roofing is used only for flat or low-slope roofs.

Torch Down Roofing is popular with many contractors in Southern California, mainly because of its ease of installation and its adaptability.   Some CA roofers use this system because the modified bitumen can bond tightly to metal flashings and the bond rubbery additives in the asphalt allow the roofing to expand and contract, where other roofing systems may crack.  CA roofers like that Torch Down Roofing is easy to apply – but it is also dangerous!

It is extremely easy to make a mistake with the torch that will result in disaster.  Consider roofers that are torching down a roof and accidently overheat something in the attic. They end their work for the day and don’t notice the smoldering smoke coming out of the soffit vents. Before long, that smoldering material in the attic heats up and starts a fire that is quickly spread throughout the dry, hot attic area and often to the entire structure.  We have seen too many disasters with Torch Down Roofing that resulted destruction of property.


Alternatives to Torch Down Roofing

There are many different types of flat roofing systems that will better meet your needs without posing a danger to your entire structure. Some types of flat roofing systems are applied with an adhesive, while other types are self-adhering or are hot mopped, as with cap sheet, in built-up roofing systems.  Learn more about the best solutions for flat and low slope roofs.

Below are many examples of fires that are a direct result of Torch Down Roofing, right here in San Diego.  Please read these cautionary tales before investing in a torch down roof.

Two Escape City Heights Apartment Fire

By  Kristina Davis       1:54 p.m.       Dec. 11, 2012


SAN DIEGO — A torch that may have been left unattended caught roofing materials on fire at a City Heights apartment building Tuesday, San Diego fire officials said.

The blaze was reported about 1 p.m. at the two-story building on 47th Street near University Avenue. Roofing materials that were being used to install solar panels caught fire, said San Diego fire spokesman Maurice Luque.

A woman and her 2-year-old daughter were inside an apartment and escaped. The smoke exacerbated the woman’s asthma, and she was treated by paramedics at the scene.

Firefighters knocked down the flames within 10 minutes, containing the fire to the roof, Luque. The apartment below suffered only minor water damage.

No other apartments or adjacent businesses were damaged.


Roofers Sparked Carlsbad Condo Blaze

By Teri Figueroa     3 p.m.     Oct. 25, 2012

CARLSBAD — A Carlsbad condominium fire Wednesday that displaced about 100 people was accidently sparked by workers heating up tar on the roof of the building, a city spokeswoman said Thursday.

The three-alarm blaze on Hosp Way, on the west side of El Camino Real, damaged eight units and left other condos with water or smoke damage, Carlsbad city spokeswoman Kristina Ray said.

Aside from damage to some condos, authorities had to cut utilities to a total of 36 units, she said, adding that it was unclear when residents would be able to return to their homes.

Inside one of the condos, authorities found a small marijuana garden, but it was determined to have been legal and for medicinal use, she said.

It took fire crews about an hour and 15 minutes to control the blaze.


Oceanside Duplex Fire Put Out

By Jose Luis Jiménez

OCEANSIDE — A fire at a duplex on South Vista Campana near Vista Oceana was quickly extinguished Tuesday evening, said Oceanside fire Battalion Chief Peter Lawrence.

The blaze was reported about 5:40 p.m., and the first firefighters to arrive reported seeing light smoke coming from the roof. The fire was under control about 15 minutes later. No one was hurt, but at least three residents will have to find somewhere else to spend the night, Lawrence said.

The fire was mostly contained to a single-car garage attached to the duplex, with some flames reaching an adjacent bedroom, Lawrence said.

The flames were ignited when roofers earlier in the day used a blow torch to heat roofing materials, Lawrence said. Some wood on the roof was inadvertently set on fire and pieces fell into the garage below, igniting household chemicals, Lawrence said.

Damage was estimated at $72,000, including $22,000 damage to a 2010 Ford Flex parked in the garage.


Fire in Old San Diego Building Started by Accident

By The Associated Press 9:58 a.m.July 7, 2011

SAN DIEGO — Investigators say workers putting a new roof on a San Diego restaurant accidentally started a fire in an adjacent 100-year-old building, causing about $1 million damage.

More than 100 firefighters battled the 3 p.m. fire Wednesday in a three-story wooden building in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood.

Fire-Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque (loo-KAY’) told the San Diego Union-Tribune the fire was accidentally started by workers using a torch to put a new roof on the adjacent restaurant.

Luque says 12 of the 15 apartments on the second and third floors were occupied, but all residents got out safely. Two businesses on the first floor had structural and water damage.

Luque says because the building is so old, it has no fire stops in its hollow walls, making the fire more intense.


San Ysidro Apartment Fire Prompts Two-Alarm Response

By Greg Gross  6:58 p.m.  March 19, 2009

SAN DIEGO – A fire at a San Ysidro apartment building Thursday afternoon prompted a two-alarm response from San Diego and Chula Vista firefighters. The fire was reported about 4:40 p.m. at Palmira Village apartments on West San Ysidro Boulevard near Dairy Mart Road.

A second alarm was called about 10 minutes later after the firefighters who responded found smoke coming from the roof of the two-story complex. However, an initial check of the apartments found no fire in any of the units, said Capt. Daniel Reeves of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

About 30 firefighters responded.

“It was a roof fire, not that big,” Reeves said.

Flammable materials left behind by workers may have started the blaze, he said.

“Some of the residents were saying there were some roofers up there earlier, using torches,” Reeves said. At least two apartments were damaged by water used to put out the roof fire. Firefighters also pulled down walls and ceilings in some units to make sure that no fire spread into the building, Reeves said. An initial damage estimate was $100,000.


Torch Down Roofing Fire in Hillcrest, CA

More than 110 firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze Wednesday at a three-story wooden building in Hillcrest that the owner said was about 100 years old.

Damage was estimated at $1 million to the building and contents, said Maurice Luque, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman. The fire was accidentally started by workers using a torch to put a new roof on the adjacent Buonissimo2 restaurant, Luque said.

The fire was reported about 3 p.m. at the building on University Avenue between Vermont Street and 10th Avenue that houses two businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the top two floors, Luque said.

Firefighters tried to fight the blaze inside the building for the first 20 minutes but had to pull out due to the intense flames and heavy smoke, Luque said. Even several hours into the incident, some flames could be seen sporadically breaking out on the upper floors.

The older building did not have fire stops in the hollow walls, explaining why the fire was burning so quickly and intensely, Luque said.

Among those watching the firefighters was George Degenhart, who said he has owned the building since 1976. He said the structure is “close to 100 years old.”

Three ladder trucks poured 900 gallons of water per minute on the inferno. Water gushed out of the apartment windows on the second and third floors.  There are a total of 15 apartments on the second and third floors, 12 of which were occupied, Luque said. All residents who were home at the time got out safely.  The businesses on the first floor – Torreon Importers and Obelisk, a book and gift store – had structural and water damage, Luque said.

Dozens of people lined the block across the street, at a commercial center anchored by a Ralphs grocery store and Pick Up Stix restaurant, to watch the firefighters. Many were taking pictures or video with their cellphones.  Smoke initially billowed down University Avenue as the firefighters poured water on the flames. At one point, the smoke was so thick that buildings a half-block away near 10th Avenue were totally obscured.

Jesus Plasencia, a stylist at Haircut Boulevard near Ralphs, said he was looking outside and saw the initial flames. “Within seconds, the flames were really high,” he said. “It just took off.”

The response included 14 engines and six trucks, Luque said. No firefighters were injured. The Red Cross was providing temporary housing assistance for the displaced residents.

Sully-Jones Roofing offers many commercial roofing options to avoid  the dangers of torch down roofing. To find out more about flat and low slope roofing systems, click here.