On The Job: PENNSYLVANIA

On Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, the Pottstown, PA, Fire Department was faced with heavy fire emitting from two apartment buildings, six occupants needing rescue from the second floor and a jumper who was on the ground, critically injured.


On Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, the Pottstown, PA, Fire Department was faced with heavy fire emitting from two apartment buildings, six occupants needing rescue from the second floor and a jumper who was on the ground, critically injured. The Pottstown Fire Department was dispatched to a report of...


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On Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, the Pottstown, PA, Fire Department was faced with heavy fire emitting from two apartment buildings, six occupants needing rescue from the second floor and a jumper who was on the ground, critically injured.

The Pottstown Fire Department was dispatched to a report of flames coming from the main entrance of 538 High St. at 5:22 P.M. It was also reported that the building was being evacuated, followed by a report of a victim jumping from the building. Quint 69, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Ladder 69, a 100-foot rear-mount aerial ladder with a 1,250-gpm pump; Heavy Rescue 69; Squrt 69, a 1,500-gpm pumper with a 55-foot articulating boom; and Advanced Life Support (ALS) EMS Unit 329 responded with five career firefighters and 20 volunteer firefighters under the command of Fire Chief Richard C. Lengel. Rescue 69, Quint 69 and ALS EMS Unit 329-2 arrived at 5:24, with Ladder 69 arriving next.

Both structures were built prior to 1900. The building at 538 High St. consisted of three sections: the front was two-story brick, the center was a three-story Victorian house and the rear was a three-story cement-block structure. This building was 37 feet wide and 140 feet deep, and 30 people occupied its 27 apartments. A beauty shop was on the first floor. The building at 540 High St. was constructed of brick and was only five feet from the other building. This building was 27 feet wide and 140 feet deep, and 17 people lived in its 12 apartments. Local smoke detectors were in each apartment and a monitored alarm system was in the common areas of the buildings.

The Pottstown Fire Department is a combination department made up of 13 career and 45 volunteer firefighters operating out of four stations. The department is comprised of the Goodwill Steam Fire Company Number 1, Philadelphia Steam Fire Engine Company Number 1, Empire Hook and Ladder Company Number 1, and North End Fire Company Number 1.

Initial Conditions

Upon arrival of the first crews, the rear third of 538 High St. was fully involved from the ground level to the roof. Fire had also extended to the third floor and roof of the B-side exposure at 540 High St. Quint 69 was positioned at the A/B corner of 538 High St. and Ladder 69 was positioned on the A/D corner of that building. Rescue 69 was staged west of the scene. Quint 69 was fed by a 250-foot, five-inch hydrant supply line. Squrt 69 arrived at 5:26 and was assigned to the rear of 538 High St. This unit was supplied with a 600-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Washington Street.

The ALS crew immediately started care on a female victim who was found lying on the sidewalk at the A/D corner of 538 High St. She had jumped from a third-floor apartment window and initial exam found possible multiple trauma. She was packaged and transported to Hahnemann University Hospital by University Medevac helicopter. Ladder 69's and Quint 69's aerial ladders were placed into position for the rescue of the five occupants trapped on the second-floor roof of 538 High St. Firefighters also placed two 14-foot ground ladders to the front porch roof to aid in the rescues. All rescues were completed by 5:33 P.M. Thirty-two other occupants escaped through doors and windows, with some being assisted by other residents.

Second Alarm

Lengel requested a second alarm at 5:33. Pottstown Squad 69, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Air 69 responded. The mutual aid response included Sanatoga Fire Company (of Lower Pottsgrove Township) Engine 58, a 1,500-gpm pumper; West End Fire Company (of West Pottsgrove Township) Engine 57-3, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Royersford Fire Company Engine 84, a 2,000-gpm pumper, and Ladder 84, a 100-foot aerial ladder; and Collegeville Fire Company Heavy Rescue 34.

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