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A fire department in Texas had a “bad day” on the fireground, with two firefighters suffering burn injuries, but there is no question it could have been much worse. However, because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened at that house fire – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they improved their operations and are helping the rest of us by sharing their story.
Believe it or not, there have been – and still are – fire departments that have suffered serious injuries and even line-of-duty deaths, yet have done little or nothing to learn from the tragedies. Some departments just “write off” their losses as “part of the job.” While a “bad day” on the fireground may very well be “part of the job” at times, ignoring an opportunity to learn from it is not “part of the job.” After this close call, a good boss did what was necessary to determine what went right and what went wrong, recognizing the responsibility we all have to “take care of our own.”
A Growing City
Located between Round Rock and Taylor, the City of Hutto, TX, is only 25 miles from the state capital of Austin. While it is rare in most areas of the United States these days, primarily due to the economy, the Hutto community is actually experiencing incredible growth.
Hutto Fire Rescue serves a 63-square-mile area that has experienced an explosive population growth. In 2000, Hutto had a population of 1,250 with an estimated population in the coverage area for Hutto Fire Rescue of approximately 5,000. But by the end of 2005, the City of Hutto’s population was estimated to be over 12,000 and the Hutto Fire Rescue coverage area to be over 32,800. Current estimates now show the City of Hutto at approximately 17,500 people while the service area for Hutto Fire Rescue is estimated to be 39,000 people. By the year 2030, the population of the City of Hutto is projected to be more than 60,000, with the entire Hutto Fire Rescue coverage area at around 80,000. This unprecedented growth has been driven in large part by the construction of State Highway 130 (SH130) through Hutto. SH130 parallels the Interstate Highway 35 corridor, which runs through Austin and central Texas.
Hutto Fire Rescue is a combination paid/volunteer fire department with 10 full-time employees, 32 part-time employees and 15 volunteer members. The department is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by six “on-duty” firefighters. Firefighters are equipped and trained to assist in fire and rescue situations as well as emergency medical calls. Hutto firefighters act as first responders for Williamson County EMS and all full- and part-time employees are trained to at least the EMT level. Our sincere thanks to Chief Scott Kerwood and the firefighters and officers involved in this incident from Hutto, Taylor, Wilco EMS, Weir, Georgetown and Round Rock for their cooperation in sharing their close call.
At 07:48 A.M. on Sept. 5, 2011, Williamson County Emergency Communications received a 911 call for a structure fire at 300 Lemens Ave. in Hutto. The initial dispatch assignment included Hutto Engines 1 and 2, Taylor Quint 1, WILCO Medic 43 and Hutto Chief 1. Additional responders included Hutto Tender 1, Weir Tender 1, Weir Chief 2, Georgetown Engine 1, Georgetown Battalion Chief 1 and Round Rock Tender 7. At 7:49, Hutto Fire Rescue was dispatched to the above reported fire in a residential structure’s attached garage. The weather at the time of the call was approximately 79 degrees Fahrenheit with 41% relative humidity and winds from the north at 25 to 30 mph.
While enroute, Hutto Engine 1 identified a single hydrant a quarter-mile from the structure. Hutto Engine 1 arrived on scene at 7:57 to find heavy smoke coming from a medium-sized, two-story residential structure with composite shingles over wood on a concrete slab. The officer of Hutto Engine 1 established Lemens Command and gave an initial size-up reporting heavy smoke coming from the D side of the structure. The D side is the attached garage on the north side of the residence. The A side is the front of the house, which faces east.