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Fires involving mobile homes present special challenges. Our sincere thanks to Firefighter Tracy Davis, Training Officer Brandon Flynn, Chief John Childs, EFO, Chief of Operations Steve Kovalcik, and the officers and members of the Sterling Heights, MI, Fire Department for their assistance with this month's close call.
The Sterling Heights Fire Department, based six miles north of Detroit, covers 36 square miles with five stations. Sterling Heights is the fourth-largest city in Michigan, by population, and has a mix of residential, commercial and industrial occupancies that include two Daimler-Chrysler and two Ford factories. The city has a permanent population of 127,000 and about 250,000 during the day. The fire department's Extinguishment Division consists of 90 personnel, who rotate three shifts (three battalion chiefs, five captains, 16 lieutenants, nine sergeants and 57 firefighter/paramedics). The department is the primary EMS provider for the city, with advanced life support (ALS) by paramedic engines and a private contractor hired to transport.
This initial account is from Firefighter Tracy Davis:
On Oct. 29, 2006, I experienced an airpack failure while interior at a mobile home fire. I was not sure what part of the SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) failed, but this is what I recall: Normal habits tell me I opened my air bottle fully before placing my mask. I then placed my regulator on my mask. All seemed right and my airpack was functioning properly. My heads-up display was working properly.
We entered the trailer. About two minutes into our firefighting, conditions got bad. We experienced a rollover and it got very hot. While fighting the fire, my heads-up display either turned solid red or blinking red. I can't recall. My next breath sucked my mask to my face. I tried one additional breath, again sucking my mask to my face. I knew I was out of luck and made an emergency evacuation, but not pulling my mask off until I was in fresh air.
Once outside, I got my pack working again. I think I might have shut down my bottle and reopened it. Also, my SCBA was rocked around as I rolled off the porch and down some stairs to a safe area.
This account is excerpted from the first-due company's report:
Engine 5 responded to report of mobile home fire, reported fully involved. Arrived at scene, passed command, gave size-up, stated 50% involved. Directed tailboard firefighters to pull pre-connect.
Engine 5 officer viewed A, B, D sides of occupancy. A gray-colored and lighter-colored black smoke showing from A and C side soffit/gable areas, kitchen window on B side failed from fire, visible flame inside occupancy (not emitting from window). Vehicle in driveway, no bystanders present.
Engine 5 crew stretched pre-connect to B-side entry door. Battalion Chief 2 coordinated with Engine 5 officer to have other on-scene crews perform ventilation in conjunction with fire attack. Engine 5 crew encountered smoke down to approximately two feet above the floor. Crew entered crawling to left, immediately seeing fire in kitchen area. Crew lay prone on floor and a straight stream of water was applied to the seat of the fire. Engine 5's officer noticed flames in living area, to right side of crew and directed quick line application to prevent the fire from moving behind the crew. Fire attack continued on main body of fire. Flames were again noticed to right of crew, again quick water application was directed to the area. Fire attack continued to seat of fire. Flames were now over the Engine 5 crew head, ceiling was hit (with the hose stream) to cool ceiling area. Engine 5's officer suddenly had Firefighter Davis make body contact while exiting dwelling.
Engine 5 officer observed sudden flame engulfment of room. The atmosphere was warm, but not hot. Engine 5's officer immediately yelled to evacuate. Engine 5's officer reached forward and met Firefighter Ioco head-on, both "tumbling" out of doorway, and down porch stairs. Immediate roll call was done by the Engine 5 officer (also Battalion Chief 2) to account for crew. Other on-scene crews performed defensive exterior fire attack, eventually returning to offensive when main body of fire was almost extinguished.