"It Felt Like a Bomb Went Off!" — Part 2

As we noted last month in Part 1 of this column, for most firefighters, odds are your most common structural fires involve single-family dwellings. In addition to construction concerns, "what's inside" is a major factor that can lead to close calls, or...


As we noted last month in Part 1 of this column, for most firefighters, odds are your most common structural fires involve single-family dwellings. In addition to construction concerns, "what's inside" is a major factor that can lead to close calls, or worse, for firefighters. In this case, for...


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As we noted last month in Part 1 of this column, for most firefighters, odds are your most common structural fires involve single-family dwellings. In addition to construction concerns, "what's inside" is a major factor that can lead to close calls, or worse, for firefighters. In this case, for members of the Independence Fire District in northern Kentucky, "what's inside" at a working house fire turned out to be eight oxygen cylinders. Again, our sincere thanks to Independence Fire District Chief Richard A. Messingschlager and all the officers and members operating at this fire, including Assistant Chief Jeff Armstrong, Captain Dave Murphy, Lieutenants Chad Dietz and Ron Crone, Firefighters Bryan Claybern, Larry Gross, Paul Heringer and Steve Maselli, Firefighter/Medics Darlene Payette, Joshua Cox and Rick Sturgeon, and Captain John Bidwell, who assisted with this column.

This account is by Fire Chief Richard A. Messingschlager:

One of our ambulance crews was first on the scene and gave their size-up of the fire and gave aid to a patient. Assistant Chief Armstrong advised, prior to his arrival, for companies to go to defensive operations due to information by radio of oxygen bottles in the home — with heavy fire conditions. The officer in command agreed with that message and did so with two attack lines, a 1¾-inch line on the D side at a window and a 2½-inch line on the A side at the front door. After the main body of fire was knocked down, an interior crew went in to mop up hot spots with a 1¾-inch line, entering through the front door on the A side. It was during this operation that the bottles exhausted and one exploded. At the time of the explosion, I was at the A side, tracking the accountability of firefighters inside, and it was a relief to see both firefighters exit the building.

Firefighters should understand that aluminum cylinders have a significantly different loss of strength over steel cylinders, although we need to be concerned about any compressed cylinders in fire conditions. A partially pressurized heated cylinder can fail before the burst disk actuates. These bottles can fail at 400 degrees.

The force of this explosion burst out one interior garage wall, striking a van and did heavy damage. It punched several holes in the floor and knocked siding off the house. A total of eight cylinders were found in the house, all but one in a bedroom.

This account is by Firefighter Bryan Claybern with information from Lieutenant Chad Dietz (the injured members):

While we were enroute on Engine 452, Kenton County Dispatch advised us of an elderly woman rescued from the home who had minor burns on her body and that several oxygen cylinders were inside the residence. Units arrived on scene to find a single-story, single-family dwelling with fire coming from a rear-bedroom window on the D side. Ambulances 463 and 464 were with the victim in the front yard. Engine 453 was the first on scene and was positioned on side A/B. Crew members of 453 stretched a 2½-inch pre-connected hoseline to the front door. Engine 451 arrived at nearly the same time (positioned at D/A) and deployed a 1¾-inch line to the D-side window. Truck 460 arrived at the same time as our crew and the truck positioned on side D, with Engine 452 positioning on the D/A side behind Engine 451.

The scene appeared to be moving smoothly. Engine 453 crew members were securing a water supply (100-foot five-inch line) in the front yard. A 2½-inch supply line was then stretched from the hydrant to Engine 453 to allow for water supply. Command officers decided that a defensive attack was most appropriate during the initial phase of the incident, and that information was relayed to all on-scene members.

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