Danger at a Residential Basement Fire

  In late January 2011, a close call was experienced by firefighters at a basement fire in a single-family dwelling in Prince George's County, MD. Part one of this column in the March issue featured an overview of the Prince George's County...


  In late January 2011, a close call was experienced by firefighters at a basement fire in a single-family dwelling in Prince George's County, MD. Part one of this column in the March issue featured an overview of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department and an account of the close call...


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During the initial push to exit the structure, I lost the line I had been following to exit because visibility was still zero in the structure. After about 15 seconds, I located the line and followed it to the threshold of the front door.

The following account is by Firefighter Jake Stevens, assigned to the "layout" position on Engine 812:

I was riding in the "layout" seat. Given the time of day, the weather conditions, power outages and the fact that box assignments are rare in this area, I believed that this would be a working fire. As the engine got closer to the scene, it quickly became apparent that this was a working basement fire.

Engine 812 front-sleeved a hydrant a few houses before the reported address. Since the driver did not need assistance establishing a water supply, I assisted in flaking out the attack line. While the "bar man" was forcing the front door, the line man flowed water through the window to the left of the front door to knock down some of the fire before entering the structure. Once the front door was opened, I could see thick, black smoke down to the floor level. While the line was advanced inside, I stayed near the front door to feed more hose into the building. There was very limited visibility due to smoke.

Within minutes of entry being made, I had no more available hose to bring inside and the attack line could not be advanced any farther. I followed the attack line inside to let the rest of the crew know that we had no more hose available. As I crawled farther into the structure, I noticed that the floor in the first room felt spongy. Upon meeting up with the rest of the engine crew, I told them that we had no more hose. It seemed like at around the same time I was doing this there was a cracking sound and it felt like the floor sagged or bent a little. The chief ordered us out.

I stayed near the front door and assisted several other firefighters out. While doing this, I was counting the members of our engine crew to ensure that we hadn't lost anyone. The engine officer and assistant chief were the last two firefighters to exit through the front door. When our officer had finished taking off his facepiece, I told him our entire crew was out of the building.

With the majority of the fire in the basement extinguished, crews were allowed to return to interior operations. Most of the remaining fire in the structure was in the attic space and walls. Our initial attack line was extended with a 50-foot section of hose and advanced to the second floor/attic space. To do this, the bale of the original nozzle was left in place. This created a problem shortly thereafter. The crew on the second floor reported they had no water, but the original section of the line near me still had good pressure in it. I started looking for the original bale, figuring that one of the crews performing overhaul must have kicked it closed accidentally. I found it just as Division 2 was about to have all crews leave the attic space and, as I had thought, the bale was closed. With water restored to the attack line, operations were able to continue.

The following account is by Firefighter Tyler DiStasio, assigned to the irons position of Engine 812:

I was riding in the irons, or "bar man," seat and my first assignment was to gain access into the house for the line man and crew. When I got to the front door, I noticed there were two doors, an exterior metal door and an interior wooden door. I tried the metal exterior door first and it was locked. I then broke out the glass to see if I could reach in to unlock it. For some reason, I couldn't unlock the door, so I resorted to forcing it. It was a little difficult because I couldn't get the adz end of the bar into the door enough, but after a few tries, the metal door popped open. I immediately broke out the window panes on the second wooden door and reached around to unlock it. Once both doors were open, I moved out of the way so the crew could continue in to find the basement steps. I masked up and followed the line to catch up with the crew.