We all have been dispatched to runs that sound routine and to others where the dispatcher's voice makes it clear that this run will be serious. The difference should be minimal. While in many cases the dispatchers do know what is going on, sometimes they don't know or the information...
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Note: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851, Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Firefighting and Proximity Firefighting, was developed to reduce the safety risks and potential health hazards related to turnout/bunker gear care, maintenance and repair. The intent of the standard is to protect firefighters, their families and the general public — essentially, anyone they might come in contact with because they all have the potential to become contaminated. NFPA 1851 defines the guidelines concerning standard operating procedures (SOPs) and roles and responsibilities of record keeping, inspection, cleaning, decontamination and repair of your gear. You can get a complete copy of NFPA 1851 at www.nfpa.org or through your bunker gear supplier.
Critically important is every firefighter knowing that full protective gear (helmet with chin strap worn, hood in position, gloves worn, coat fully closed with neck/collar protection up, pants fully closed and boots on) must be worn properly on every run and can go a long way in helping the public and helping ourselves.
Each one of us at one time or another forgot to wear a hood, didn't want to use the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in the false belief that "a little smoke won't hurt," or simply slacked off due to laziness or getting too comfortable. And that's when we can get in trouble. Sure, the weather may be hot or we don't want to pack up because it doesn't look too bad, but that's what gets us in trouble. It's similar to a football player putting his helmet on "only when he needs it," which is pretty stupid logic. But it is significantly more stupid for us go into any incident without being fully prepared for the worst.
In this month's case study, fortunately, these firefighters from Frederick County, MD, understood the importance of being fully prepared, personally prepared, just in case something goes wrong. And it did. So often, it's a combination of small "things forgotten or ignored" at a fire that can lead to tragic outcomes. In this month's close call, we see how firefighters properly understand the importance of being fully prepared.
Our sincere thanks to the officers and members of the New Midway Volunteer Fire Department Company 9 and Union Bridge Volunteer Fire Department Company 8, as well as the officers and members of the Frederick County Department of Fire & Rescue Services, Director Thomas Owens and Safety Chief Michael Crawford for their assistance with this close call account.
Fire and rescue services in Frederick County are provided by 26 fire, rescue or EMS community-based volunteer organizations supported by the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Service. That division has more than 300 uniformed and civilian personnel providing response, dispatch, training and fire marshals/prevention services.
The following account was provided by Firefighter Jed Gregory:
On the way to the fire, we received reports of three children trapped in the structure. When Engine 81 arrived on scene, Firefighter Cody Isanogle and I defeated the lock to the gate and proceeded up the hill to the house. Once at the house, we could see that it was the trailer behind the house actually on fire. Bystanders told us that the children were in the trailer. Firefighter Isanogle and I evaluated the structure from side A, then side B, then side C as we walked around the structure. We noted fire through the roof in the center of the structure from side C, visible from side A as well. The room on the B/C corner of the trailer had both windows open with light smoke coming out. The door to side C was open already and there was heavy fire to the left of the door.
The room on the B/C corner still appeared viable, so Firefighter Isanogle alerted Chief 9 that we wanted to enter side C and search that room quickly and then come back out based on the reports of children trapped. Chief 9 replied with "do a quick search" and we proceeded into the side-C door properly dressed in full turnout gear and breathing apparatus. I led into the structure and immediately turned right for a right-hand search, which would lead us directly into the room on the B/C corner.
Approximately six to seven steps into the structure, the heat became intense and within seconds the room that was previously showing only light smoke was fully involved in flames. I felt my hands burning, yelled to Firefighter Isanogle, and we proceeded to exit the structure. Firefighter Isanogle grabbed my shoulder as I took a step too far past the side C door that we had entered and then I walked out of the door unassisted.