To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
We received reports of firefighters missing on the exposure-2 side. The lieutenant said bring the plastic buckets we carry to that side of the building. John Gaine came over and said I need your saw and hook, I just talked to Brian and I know where he is. I finished getting dressed and started to work on the brick pile on exposure 2. A firefighter from Ladder 116 was partially buried over there. You could look into the basement and first floor. There was heavy fire and smoke and a strong odor of chemicals. We figured they might have been blown out into the rubble pile when the building pancaked, so we started working there. The wall actually dropped down and rolled into the street.
Firefighter Joe Vosilla was found first. There were a million guys there. Stuff was flying everywhere in a race against time in finding them. When the two buried firefighters were found, it was a long way to EMS. They had to be carried over hoses a long way to reach their staging area. We went to the rear and found a Hurst tool and the partially opened rear door. It was blown off its hinges.
When we were able to enter the rear door, fire was burning on top of the water. We pushed the fire to the front with a handline and then the fire was pushed back toward us. We stepped inside with a search line. We were waist deep in water. The fire continued to push us out. Bricks and other debris kept falling down. A chief allowed just three of us to work at one time. Sometimes, a ball of fire would come toward us and the lieutenant would say get out. We went in and out and back and forth numerous times. We operated in the rear until they located Brian Fahey. We put Ladder 116’s aerial ladder into the second floor apartment. We had heard a PASS alarm, but it was from a discarded airpack. Brian Hickey sent our company a letter on Rescue 4 stationery and thanked the company for their outstanding efforts on their behalf.
We responded to a box for a hazmat incident. When we pulled up, we were told to take up. This was a few blocks from the hardware store. We pulled up to a red light and a woman came off the curb pushing a baby stroller. She said I think that building’s on fire. Over the front door was a 12-by-12-inch grill pushing smoke. Captain Dennis Murphy had the chauffeur turn the corner and take a hydrant in front of a Baptist church. Getting off the rig, a man standing there tells the captain I’ll show you where the fire is. They walk into a doorway where it leads to the second floor. Right before the captain went in, he said start a hoseline. We stretched a 1¾-inch handline to the sidewalk and held the folds of hose. He radioed back that the fire was not upstairs, but in the hardware store.
We put the hose to the side and went back to the rig and stretched a 2½-inch handline. The chauffeur was told to transmit a “10-75.” Because of the other incident in the neighborhood, no other companies were with us. Firefighter Tim Murphy started cutting the locks on the store with a metal cutting saw. We put the line down to help him push the roll-down gates up. The front door was forced. Other companies started to arrive. The line was charged with water and brought into the hardware store. You could tell the fire was in the basement.
We went past the check-out counter and made a loop in the hoseline and positioned in front of the basement door three to four feet away and stood fast. The captain said hang out here, other companies were coming inside. You could hear popping noises in the basement like sounds you would hear at an electrical fire in a manhole.
As we were standing fast, Chief Bill Seelig came into to talk to Captain Murphy. Seelig said there is a door in the back and we will try to get in from there; if anything comes up, you can take care of it from here. Seelig reported they were still working on the door, it was tough, it will be a few minutes. The electrical popping noises were still audible from the basement. Captain Brian Hickey and Firefighters John Gaine and Brian Fahey from Rescue 4 were inside with members of Ladder 116. Gaine had a thermal imaging camera. He said the floors and walls were hot. The basement stairs had a spring-loaded door.
Suddenly, the door opened up on its own. For a second, a bright-blue flame the size of the door blew past me and the backup man. It was the entire height of the door over six feet in height and as wide as the door. As soon as I put my hand on the nozzle, the fire was gone. Murphy said get the line out from in front of the door and move it to the side a little bit. We moved the line off to the side. The captain radioed what had happened. A couple of minutes later, the same thing happened again. The fire came out again and then it stopped. We backed up so we would be out of the line of fire. We had our masks on the whole time. The smoke level was two-thirds of the way down from the ceiling.