Front Door Left Open by Occupants Advances Fire Onto Firefighters

One of the great challenges facing firefighters these days is the staffing issue. In some fire departments, staffing is generally consistent day or night — such as in a career department or an in-house-staffed volunteer department. But for departments...


One of the great challenges facing firefighters these days is the staffing issue. In some fire departments, staffing is generally consistent day or night — such as in a career department or an in-house-staffed volunteer department. But for departments whose members are responding from work or...


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The crew from 971 stretched their 1¾-inch initial-attack line to the front door. There was a slight delay in getting water to the first line as Firefighter Mike Passaretti was knocked over by the water surging through the five-inch supply line when it was initially charged. This resulted in a delay in breaking the coupling at the hosebed and connecting it to the discharge. As soon as the line was connected and charged, an interior attack was initiated. However, the wind was pushing the fire from the rear to front making it extremely difficult to advance the line. The initial attack line seemed to have little effect on the fire.

During this initial phase, the fire rolled over the interior teams from 971 and 978. The officer (Klein), nozzle (Firefighter George McFarlane) and backup (Firefighter Lenny Mormino) firefighters were instantly exposed to fire from the rollover. The extreme burst of heat and fire caused significant damage to their personal protective equipment (PPE). The integrity of the officer's PPE (helmet, ear flaps, hood, SCBA and turnout coat) was severely compromised. There was damage to the PPE of the other firefighters on the line, but not to the same extent as the officer's.

Acting quickly, 978's exterior team stretched an additional 1¾-inch line to the front door and began an aggressive attack on the fire. Ex-Captain Joe Barrow assumed the officer position on the first attack line with two Farmingdale firefighters and they entered the structure at the front door. Another 1¾ line was stretched to the rear by Farmingdale Engine 923. (Communications were in place to ensure that opposing lines did not occur.)

With vertical ventilation accomplished by 978 over the fire room and a quick shot of water from 923's line directly into the fire room, we began to make significant progress against the fire. Bethpage Ladder 3 was assigned to the second floor and Bethpage Engine 907 was assigned to stretch a backup line to the rear. Operating with these additional resources, we were able to quickly gain control of the fire and extinguish it. Preliminary and secondary searches were conducted and confirmed that the building was unoccupied except for the family dog, which was located under the dining room table. The dog had perished before it was found.

A post-fire examination of the fire's extent revealed significant damage to the family room, kitchen, dining and living rooms, which were laid out back to back. This confirmed that the fire was pushed from the back to the front, aided by the open front door and the wind conditions of that morning. Line placement to protect the interior stairs kept the fire from extending to the second floor and closed doors kept the fire from spreading to the first-floor bedrooms.

Two members from Engine 971 were examined at the scene by Nassau County Police EMS for burns received following the rollover. Firefighters McFarlane and Mormino were transported to the Nassau County University Medical Center burn unit for evaluation and treatment of minor burns. Firefighter Passaretti was transported by 977 to NUMC for possible injuries to his back resulting from being knocked over by the five-inch supply line. All firefighters were treated and released the same day.

An investigation by the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office determined that the fire started in the rear family room as the result of a faulty electrical supply cord to a lamp. The fire was fueled by the contents of the room and wood paneling in the original fire room. With the fresh source of oxygen from the open front door, the fire quickly took off. Once the fire self-vented, the wind pushed the fire from the rear to the front of the house.

The high heat and heavy smoke being pushed from rear to front made it difficult for a single line to advance and subsequently led to the rollover. Had the firefighters not been wearing their full PPE, the consequences could have been far worse. This is an example of the protection afforded to firefighters when they wear and properly use full PPE.

The following account is by Ex-Captain Chris Klein, who was on Engine 971:

As the officer of Engine 971, I had Fire Com mutual aid one engine and one truck to the scene before we arrived. I was unaware that Chief 9702 was on the road, but I knew it was a job and the extra resources would be needed.

Engine 971 stopped at a hydrant and dropped a five-inch line and proceeded to the fire building. The crew stretched a 1¾-inch handline off the rear hosebed to the front door. Once the line was charged, we made our way in. We lost the backup firefighter due to an injury and the control firefighter had to take the backup position once he was finished at the hydrant.