Mayday at Single-Family-Dwelling Fire

On Nov. 21, 2009, two firefighters who comprised the interior attack crew from the Wheat Ridge, CO, Fire Department became trapped and initiated a Mayday while operating on the interior of a fire in a single-family dwelling.


On Nov. 21, 2009, two firefighters who comprised the interior attack crew from the Wheat Ridge, CO, Fire Department became trapped and initiated a Mayday while operating on the interior of a fire in a single-family dwelling. The Mayday was transmitted in response to an increasing lack of...


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The interior crew re-entered the structure prior to obtaining the TI and, in the course of their continuing interior investigation, encountered a room-and-contents fire in the southeast bedroom on the Alpha side. The interior crew requested ventilation over the radio. Conditions in the room began to deteriorate rapidly and at some point the interior crew identified that they could no longer locate the door through which they originally entered the bedroom. In addition, the crew identified that they had left their hoseline in the threshold from the kitchen to the hallway and that they had no means of extinguishing the fire in the bedroom. The interior crew therefore initiated a firefighter Mayday call over the radio due to the increasing lack of visibility, the uncontrolled growth of fire conditions within the room, the loss of a means of egress and the lack of necessary equipment to extinguish the fire.

The Alpha-side windows were vented by an exterior ventilation team at the same time command was transferred to Chief 71. Chief 71 repeated the Mayday radio traffic and requested a second alarm. West Metro Engine 1, Tower 3, District 1 and Safety and Medical Officer (SAM) 1 responded to the second-alarm assignment. The Engine 271 crew identified the ventilated window from inside the bedroom and initiated an emergency escape through that same Alpha-side exterior window.

The interior crew was accounted for and a personnel accountability report (PAR) was completed by command that accounted for all fire department personnel operating on scene. The interior crew, consisting of two personnel, was evaluated by Pridemark Paramedic Services on scene and subsequently transported to Exempla Lutheran Medical Center. In addition, one firefighter on the exterior of the structure sustained minor injuries while helping the interior crew exit through the window. This firefighter also was transported to Exempla Lutheran Medical Center. All three firefighters sustained minor injuries and were released from the hospital that evening. Following the Mayday, the fire was brought under control without incident by the remaining units on scene and with the assistance of the second-alarm assignment from West Metro. Primary and secondary searches were complete, the structure overhauled and the fire declared out at 6:53 P.M.

The training and experience of the two firefighters who initiated the Mayday:

Victim 1 is a 28-year-old male volunteer firefighter with three years of firefighting experience, all with the WRFD, at the time of the incident. This member was current with the following certifications at the time of the incident: Colorado State Certified Firefighter I, Colorado State Certified Hazmat Operations, EMT-Basic, ICS-100, IS-700 and IS-800. The most recent live-burn training attended by Victim 1 was in May 2007. Victim 2 is a 25-year-old male volunteer lieutenant, also with three years of firefighting experience and all with the WRFD. This member was current with the following certifications at the time of the incident: Colorado State Certified Firefighter II, Colorado State Certified Hazmat Operations, EMT-Basic, ICS-100 and IS-700. The most recent live-burn training attended by Victim 2 was in June 2009. In addition, the department has regularly provided training to members on topics such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), SCBA, search and rescue, and fire attack.

The victims' personal protective equipment:

Both of the victims were wearing PPE consisting of full firefighter turnout gear, including bunker pants, bunker coat, boots, gloves, helmet, protective hood, SCBA with a full tank of air and an integrated personal alert safety system (PASS) device. At the time of the incident, both firefighters had donned and activated their SCBA and were breathing tank air. In addition, both were in possession of handheld radios. While some of this equipment appeared to sustain damage as a result of this incident, there were no reports or physical evidence of equipment malfunction prior to or during the incident.

The fire building and site information:

The home sits on a half-acre lot and faces south with direct access to a public street to the south. The building is of Type V construction consisting of conventional wood framing, horizontal composite lap siding and a composite asphalt shingle roof. A utility shed is in the backyard, but was not involved in this incident. A vehicle was parked in the driveway and another vehicle was parked on the property just to the east of the structure. Neither vehicle was involved in the incident.

The dwelling was an approximately 1,152-square-foot, ranch-style home with a 432-square-foot attached garage. Nine rooms plus the garage are present, consisting of three bedrooms (one each on the north, southeast and southwest sides of the structure), a kitchen, laundry room, dining room, living room and a half bathroom that is immediately adjacent to a full bathroom.