Maine Firefighter Trapped: Part 1 - "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"

"Back Out! Get Out! I Want You on the Ground, Now!" The towns of Rumford and Mexico are rural "mill-town" communities separated by the Androscoggin and Swift rivers in the mountains of western Maine. The population of Rumford is approximately 5,000 and...


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Inside, Firefighters 4, 5 and 6 faced a pancake collapse with no part of Firefighter 1 visible. Only the audible alert of his PASS (personal alert safety system) device indicated his location. On their first attempt to remove the roof section, it did not budge. Firefighter 6 found a leverage point and lifted, causing the roof section to partially break. Firefighters 4 and 5 shouldered the broken section and it was hinged over, exposing Firefighter 1's lower extremities. Firefighter 1 was face down in at least eight inches of water. He was pulled out from under the remaining roof section, rolled over and SCBA air was verified to be flowing.

Firefighter 7 was getting a situation report from Firefighter 2 when Firefighter 9 exclaimed, "They found him!" Firefighter 7 immediately joined the other three on the interior and assisted with the egress of Firefighter 1 out the window, where he was received by firefighters on the porch. Firefighter 5 initiated the removal of Firefighter 1 by dragging him feet first to the second floor, where Firefighters 10 and 11 were waiting as directed by the Engine 7 D/O to continue the egress effort. Firefighter 1 was handed off to EMS. He was initially assessed as not having a pulse, but once in the ambulance, he was reassessed as being in respiratory arrest and was revived enroute to the hospital.

Also of note during this event were the prompting by the Engine 7 D/O for the incident commander to move fireground operations to TAC-2 and the decision by the devastated Mexico incident commander to turn command over to another chief officer. Best guesses from the time of the Mayday to the receipt of the patient by EMS were eight minutes to 16 minutes.

Next: Chief's account & commentary

On a more positive note, on behalf of my family and me, I sincerely wish all of you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a safe and healthy 2009. See ya soon!

WILLIAM GOLDFEDER, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com.