You & Your Bunker Gear – Part 2


  Last month, we began covering an amazing rescue and close call by FDNY Firefighter Peter Demontreux. As is evident by his actions and the end result of this fire, in addition to his high level of training (as provided both initially and ongoing by the FDNY), there are numerous...

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We also must understand, and plan ahead for, the fact that as gear gets used (but not worn out) and washed, the TPP tends to rise while the THL tends to decrease. The solution is to find the correct balance of THL and TPP values for your department and, where needed, provide extra levels of protection in specific, higher thermal load locations of the garments.

Fire departments genuinely must look at the potential thermal environments firefighters are likely to work in, as well as the local climate. When I say “genuinely,” I mean you must examine the buildings and the types of fires you may encounter. Certainly you want to look at what you “typically” respond to – but also what you “may” respond to – so “that” fire isn’t the one you end up in trouble with because your department failed to plan for the entire spectrum of your community’s potential fire environment. Plan realistically for the worst-case scenario and then do your homework from that point on.

In this close call, because the department takes the specifications of its PPE so seriously, it certainly does plan for the day-to-day use, but also for the “worst-case scenario” as experienced first hand by Firefighter Demontreux. As firefighters, we must understand and realize that the worst-case scenario may occur the next time you roll out the door. It is those times when your training and your equipment will prove their ultimate value. Consider the fact that fire departments spend so much time on items such as apparatus specs, also make sure the one thing that comes between you and the fire, your PPE and those specifications, is as important as apparatus specs. Also consider the fact that if your department buys the best possible radios, the best possible apparatus and the best possible bunker gear, none of it matters if we don’t use it.

Our sincere thanks to FDNY Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano; Chief of Department Edward Kilduff; Deputy Assistant Chief Stephen Raynis/Chief of Safety, FDNY Safety Command; Battalion Chief Robert Albanese, executive officer of the Safety and Inspection Safety Command; Firefighter Peter Demontreux; and the fire officers, companies and firefighters involved in this event. We also thank New York Daily News reporter Patrice O’Shaughnessy for assisting with this column.

The following article by Patrice O’Shaughnessy was published in the New York Daily News on Dec. 13, 2010:

The only way out was through a room that glowed orange with flames.

The fire in the Brooklyn apartment was burning at 1,000 degrees, so hot that it cooked the usually impenetrable bunker coat Firefighter Peter Demontreux wore.

He and the man he found trapped in a back room charged through the searing heat in lockstep and made their way to a ladder outside the third-floor window.

Demontreux was burned; the man he rescued suffered second-degree burns over 40% of his body.

The man survived and is expected to recover. Demontreux went back to work at Ladder 132.

For his bravery and boldness, Demontreux is the Daily News Hero of the Month.

“I got away with a scratch compared to him,” said the 30-year-old firefighter. “I’m glad he’s alive.”

Demontreux, with nearly nine years in the FDNY, responded with Ladder 132 to the arson blaze that engulfed 175 Putnam Ave. on Aug. 30.

“I went in the front door and upstairs, and on the third floor, a man said his friend was inside,” Demontreux said. “I did a search with my right hand; there was zero visibility; it was getting hotter and hotter and hotter.”

He could hear a man screaming, who was later identified as Clyde Matheny, 51.

“He was at the window of the back bedroom. I could hear him,” Demontreux said. “I went to the front window where there was an aerial ladder and told Firefighter Richard Myers of Rescue 2 that it was so hot in here, and he started to break the windows.

“I go back in and do a search with my left hand along the wall. The smoke was lifting, and I could see the flames at ceiling level,” Demontreux said.

“I went through the kitchen to the back bedroom, and I saw the man with his upper body out the window, trying to breathe. I was looking for the fire escape, a ladder, but there was nothing out there.

“He’s at my left side; we go to the front room, and the whole thing turns orange.

“It was like someone turned the lights on.”