Property-Damage Accident Unfolds Into Disaster Within Seconds

Editor's note: A close call that occurred at the scene of a motor vehicle accident taught firefighters in Maryland not to take any call for granted and even prompted them to develop standard operating guidelines (SOGs) for automobile accidents. As the...


Editor's note: A close call that occurred at the scene of a motor vehicle accident taught firefighters in Maryland not to take any call for granted and even prompted them to develop standard operating guidelines (SOGs) for automobile accidents. As the author, who was the commanding officer at the...


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Editor's note: A close call that occurred at the scene of a motor vehicle accident taught firefighters in Maryland not to take any call for granted and even prompted them to develop standard operating guidelines (SOGs) for automobile accidents. As the author, who was the commanding officer at the scene, noted, "We had many SOGs in place, but had never adopted an auto accident SOG in writing. We took these accidents for granted because there had never been a significant firefighter injury as a result of an auto accident response. Hopefully, nobody makes the same mistake twice and we all come home."

At 5:15 P.M. on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005, the Huntingtown, MD, Volunteer Fire Department, Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department Squad 2, and Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad Ambulance 48 and Medic 102 were dispatched for the auto accident with an overturned vehicle at Bowie Shop and Hunting Creek roads. Within one minute, Firefighter/Medic John Borden and I (then assistant chief) arrived on the scene of a two-vehicle accident with one vehicle on its side and the driver out. I assumed command of the incident as Borden began his evaluation of the patient of the overturned vehicle. The driver, who was alert and oriented, advised us that he was alone in the vehicle and was not injured. The 20-year-old driver of the second vehicle also was not injured and refused medical treatment.

Vehicle descriptions — The vehicle on its side was a 1992 Ford Tempo. The vehicle came to rest on the driver's side beside a green electrical box and a telephone pole. There was significant damage to the passenger compartment and a small amount of gasoline was on the ground beside the vehicle's undercarriage. The leaking had stopped prior to the fire department's arrival and appeared to involve less than one gallon of gasoline. The vehicle was not running and the only concern was that the radiator fan was still running. The pickup truck received only apparent damage to the front bumper. The truck was not running and was parked on the roadway less than five feet from the car. It was pulling a horse trailer that received no damage. The truck appeared to be a 2003 or 2004 Ford extended cab.

Altercation — While both drivers were being evaluated, the owner of the pickup truck (the father of the driver) was in the middle of Hunting Creek Road, yelling at apparently nobody. I walked up to him and asked him what was wrong. He replied, "Look at my truck. That's what's wrong!" He was asked to calm down because both parties were OK and the truck was in drivable condition, but continued his rampage. His wife also asked him to calm down when he began to yell at her. With this occurring, two firefighters from neighboring fire departments arrived on location. While they were attempting to calm the man, he directed his anger at both firefighters, striking one in the face.

Fire department arrival — Squad 6, Ambulance 68 and Ambulance 69 arrived as the altercation was taking place. Crews began to evaluate both patients and the squad crew informed me that they were going to secure the overturned vehicle.

Minutes later, the Ford Tempo exploded into flames. The grass around and under the car was on fire. Flames immediately began to appear out of the windows. Engine 62 was arriving as the vehicle burst into flames. The crew quickly stretched the front bumper line and extinguished the fire. Safety Officer 6 yelled that two firefighters had been severely burned. Communications was advised of the nature and an additional engine, two helicopters, a third ambulance and a second medic unit were requested to the scene.

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