"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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Firefighter Lucas and I pulled the 2½-inch pre-connect with a one-inch smooth-bore nozzle, while Lieutenant Ron Crone was doing his "360" walk-around and size-up of the structure. Once the attack line was pulled and charged, I immediately laid out my five-inch supply line because I knew I would be out of water quickly. Once that was done, I supplied lighting to the front yard. Other units were arriving during this process, including Engine 451, which was positioned directly behind us, directly in front of the hydrant in the front yard.

Initial attacks were made on the fire and I ran out of water quickly. I attempted to notify command via radio when I was at a half tank, but got no response, so I found the incident commander, Assistant Chief Armstrong, in the front yard and informed him face to face that my water was now gone and I had to shut down. Lieutenant Scheben and I got the water source established from a three-inch supply line from the hydrant; a five-inch supply line was going to Engine 451 from the same hydrant. I continued monitoring my pump and attack line, which was now in use again, as well as assisting firefighters with air bottle changes and retrieving tools.

I noticed the smoke was darkening down and becoming lighter as the firefighting and ventilation efforts were being done. After a short time, most of the fire had been knocked down and interior crews were rotating in and out doing mostly mop-up operations, knocking down hot spots and checking for extension. I was standing by the engine when, without warning to me, a large and loud explosion occurred. I could feel the concussion and shock wave from the explosion out on the street. I saw two firefighters running for the front door from the interior of the residence and make it to the front yard. I watched as they exited the house and just went to their knees in the front yard. I, like others, went to them to check on the extent of injuries. Lieutenant Dietz and Firefighter Claybern were both shaken from the explosion and command asked for additional EMS support to transport them for evaluation. I now saw a large hole in the garage wall, apparently from the explosion. We attempted to use Ambulance 464 to transport the firefighters, but it was blocked by fire apparatus, and we determined that we could not free it up. We waited for Ambulance 463 to return to the scene to transport the firefighters for evaluation.

This account is by Firefighter/Paramedic Joshua Cox:

While we were responding to the structure fire, dispatch advised us that all subjects were out of the residence and that there were oxygen bottles inside. Dispatch came back and advised that one subject had minor burn injuries. As I was the paramedic on Ambulance 463, my first priority was life safety of persons at the scene.

As I was getting out of the ambulance, I noted police in the yard with a patient and they were waving me down. I ran over to attend to the patient; as I did this, the fire apparatus began to arrive on scene. Ambulance 464 pulled down just past the residence to where I happened to be with the patient. I noted the patient to be in near respiratory arrest, breathing only four to six times per minute and that there was soot around her mouth and nose. The patient had a nightgown on and she was noted to have third-degree burns on her arms and the inside of her legs.

I advised the other paramedic that the patient was barely breathing. He grabbed his cardiac monitor and ALS (advanced life support) bag and he, his EMT partner and I began to work on the patient. The patient was placed on cardiac monitor showing initially a sinus bradycardia (a slow heartbeat) with a weak radial pulse. She was immediately intubated orally. The patient was placed on a cot and moved to my ambulance, as the other ambulance was blocked in by fire apparatus. By this time, patient's pulse was lost and CPR was started. Enroute to the hospital, the patient was treated per ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) protocol. She had a pulse, stable blood pressure and some voluntary breathing by our arrival at the ED (Emergency Department) at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Center in Edgewood. The patient's care was rapidly transferred to the ED.

Enroute to the hospital, Firefighter Paul Heringer, the driver, advised command of the crew onboard Ambulance 463 (Heringer, Firefighter/Medic Rick Sturgeon and me). While enroute to the ED, command stated that there was an emergency on scene. Command then advised there was an explosion and that there were injured firefighters on scene. Ambulance 463's crew quickly transferred care to the ED, gave a report, and cleared the ED to respond back to the scene to care and transport out the injured firefighters.