Last month, we began reporting on a dwelling fire that would change the way the Loudoun County, VA, Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management (LCFR) would operate forever. During the May 25, 2008, fire, seven members of the Loudoun County fire-rescue system were injured, four of them...
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Last month, we began reporting on a dwelling fire that would change the way the Loudoun County, VA, Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management (LCFR) would operate forever. During the May 25, 2008, fire, seven members of the Loudoun County fire-rescue system were injured, four of them seriously with burns. The members are sharing their story here in an effort to reduce and prevent firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths (LODDs). Last month's column featured an overview of the incident with observations by Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan R. Starling of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company, Stations 11 and 18 of LCFR, who was the incident commander:
The following are comments and observations by Captain/Station Commander Micah Joel Kiger of LCFR, who was interior:
While responding to a commercial building fire in Leesburg on Ashburn's Reserve Engine 6, a different box alarm was being transmitted to box area 22-03 for a house fire. Leesburg Company 1 was on the scene of the initial box alarm, stating that they had nothing showing and were in investigation mode. Upon receipt of that transmission, I attempted to make contact with Battalion Chief 2, requesting permission to divert to the secondary fire. Among all of the other radio traffic, it is believed that we were granted permission to respond on the secondary fire since we were in close proximity at that point.
Reserve Engine 6 diverted to the secondary fire without confirmation being made through the battalion chief regarding the first assignment. We were approximately 2½ miles from the secondary fire, with a thin column of black smoke visible from that area. We arrived on the scene and established our own water from a hydrant in the cul-de-sac, positioning Reserve Engine 6 nearest Side Bravo. My initial on-scene report consisted of something to the effect of, "Reserve Engine 6 to Loudoun. We're on the scene with a two-story single-family dwelling. Got a fire that appears to be running Side Charlie or it's in the attic. I'll get back to you in a minute."
Before exiting the cab, Firefighter Brandy Lapole was instructed to pull the irons pack and thermal imager since we knew that the truck company would be delayed. We exited the engine, Firefighter Lapole went to the front door on Side Alpha and I began my walk-around counter-clockwise to Side Charlie. There was visible/vented fire showing from what was believed to be a bedroom on Side Charlie, floor two. There was also fire on the exterior of the structure, believed at that point to be from dripping/melting vinyl siding. There was obvious fire blowing from a bump-out on the rear of the structure at the level of the windows and eaves. As a point of clarification, this would be considered the third floor on the rear, second floor from the front since this home had a walk-out basement.
A 360-degree walk-around was not completed due to the terrain and partial fencing behind the residence. (Columnist's note: Battalion Chief 1, who arrived as the second chief, was able to access the rear from the A/D side.) Prior to voicing my situation report, I instructed Tower 6 that nobody was outside to meet us and that they were going to have to do a search. I then voiced my situation report to communications, restating the initial findings and confirming a working fire on the number-two floor, Side Charlie, establishing command and requesting to transfer ASAP.
I proceeded to Side Alpha to meet up with Firefighter Lapole. She was donning a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and asked me, "Where are we going, Cap?" I told her that it was on the second floor, center of the house, and was vented. I pulled on my facepiece, put my helmet on, tightened my chinstrap and pulled on my gloves. During the course of this, I told Brandy to take a deep breath, then I tapped on her helmet front and asked "Are you ready, kid?" and she nodded yes and I said, "Let's go get it."