"You Have Firefighters Jumping Out the Rear of the House!" - Part 1

On Sunday, May 25, 2008, a dwelling fire would change the way the Loudoun County, VA, Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management (LCFR) would operate forever. Odds are, readers will be able to relate to this fire — the circumstances and the...


On Sunday, May 25, 2008, a dwelling fire would change the way the Loudoun County, VA, Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management (LCFR) would operate forever. Odds are, readers will be able to relate to this fire — the circumstances and the lessons learned. Due to a series of issues...


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On Sunday, May 25, 2008, a dwelling fire would change the way the Loudoun County, VA, Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management (LCFR) would operate forever. Odds are, readers will be able to relate to this fire — the circumstances and the lessons learned.

Due to a series of issues including companies in the first-due area being on other runs, size-up/360 walk-around, staffing and other factors at this single-family-dwelling fire, seven members of the Loudoun County fire-rescue system were injured, four of them seriously with burns. The department is sharing its story and the report with Firehouse® Magazine Close Calls readers in an effort to reduce and prevent firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths (LODDs).

Seven Loudoun County fire-rescue personnel were injured at the Meadowood Court incident — four while performing initial interior firefighting operations and three later on the fireground. Six of the injured have returned to work, but one firefighter who was severely burned continues to recover from the injuries sustained at this incident.

At around 1 P.M., LCFR received a 911 call for a structure fire in the 43000 Block of Meadowood Court in Leesburg. Fire-rescue personnel (a total of six firefighters initially from a tower ladder and an engine) arrived on the scene to find heavy fire coming from a two-story single-family home. The fire spread rapidly as fire-rescue personnel performed fireground operations. Four firefighters quickly searched the home for occupants and initiated a fire attack while the two apparatus operators conducted exterior tasks.

Minutes after the first units from Fire Station 6 and the incident command staff (two chief officers) arrived, a rapid and catastrophic change of fire and smoke conditions occurred in the interior of the house. Four personnel from Reserve Engine 6 and Tower 6 became trapped on the second floor. A Mayday transmission was made by the crews because of the life-threatening situation. Due to the intense fire, heat and smoke conditions, firefighters were forced to self-rescue from the structure.

My sincere thanks to all the members of the Loudoun County fire-rescue system (my alma mater) for their assistance in providing this information so that others may learn. Specifically, my sincere thanks go to Chief Joseph E. Pozzo, Battalion Chief Corey Parker, Captain Micah Kiger, Lieutenant John Earley and Chief Fire Marshal W. Keith Brower, all of LCFR; and to Deputy Chief Jonathan R. Starling of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company; and to Firefighters Brandy Lapole and Jackie Shingleton, and Technicians Joshua Yoder and David Allen.

In discussions with LCFR Chief Fire Marshal Brower, he stated the following about the fire cause: "The fire was caused by careless disposal of smoking materials on the outside deck (Side Charlie). The cigarette ignited nearby combustible materials and spread rapidly up the exterior wall that was clad with combustible exterior siding. Beneath the siding was combustible sheathing that fostered fire development. The fire extended quickly into the attic, where immense quantities of flammable fire gases built up and were heated until they flashed. This rapid attic fire involved exposed lightweight component roof truss assemblies, causing structural collapse. As firefighters moved to the second floor to combat the fire, the fire also burned through the exterior wall on the first floor, where it ignited a fuel package that contained carpet, overstuffed furnishings and other common household items containing synthetic materials. The overall flashover occurred on both floors, trapping the firefighters operating on the second floor."

The following are comments and 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:

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