"Classic" Fireground Safety Issues at Fire in Single-Family Dwelling

As this was being written in mid-December, we could look at the firefighter line-of-duty-death number for 2005 approach (and perhaps, by the time you read this, pass) the 2004 number. So many of you ask whether this will ever change. We think that the...


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As this was being written in mid-December, we could look at the firefighter line-of-duty-death number for 2005 approach (and perhaps, by the time you read this, pass) the 2004 number. So many of you ask whether this will ever change. We think that the behaviors, cultures or attitudes (whatever you want to call it) of the fire service are changing.

There has never been a time when more efforts were being made nationally toward the reduction of firefighter injuries and deaths. While those efforts are important, the more realistic approach to "fixing" the problem is at the local level. And among the members, the most effective position in correcting the problem is the company officer.

This month, we look at a near-tragic event that occurred involving the Bound Brook, NJ, Fire Department. Our sincere appreciation goes out to Ex-Chief (now Captain) Richard S. Colombaroni, current Chief of Department James Suk, and the officers and firefighters of the Bound Brook Fire Department for their cooperation.

This account is provided by Captain Richard S. Colombaroni:

The Bound Brook Fire Department consists of four companies, each based in its own firehouse. The all-volunteer department has approximately 70 active members with three engines, one 105-foot quint and a services/support vehicle. There is hydrant service throughout the community, which is supplied and maintained by New Jersey American Water Company, which recently acquired the system from Elizabethtown Water Company. When there is a call, all four fire companies respond and function under the command of the chief of the department.

On Oct. 10, 2005, at 12:36 A.M., the county communications center dispatched our department to a 911 call reporting a structure fire. The address reported is in an older section of the community. Most of the buildings are single-family residential with some multiple-family and commercial buildings intermixed. Most of the structures are of balloon construction. The initial dispatch reported that the occupants of the home had exited, but that family pets may be trapped.

While responding to the fire station as the company captain, I monitored the arriving police officers' radio transmissions. Heavy black smoke was reported to be issuing from a rear corner of the structure. The family pets were also reported to have been evacuated. Weather was not a factor, as the night was clear and temperatures were in the mid-60s with low humidity. The time of the alarm indicated that there would most likely be sufficient manpower as our company by itself has 22 active members and would be joined by the other three companies on arrival at the scene.

I arrived at the fire station first and geared up. A second, third and fourth firefighter arrived in quick succession. As we began to exit the station, we were joined by a fifth firefighter, who immediately entered the cab without stopping to get his gear out of the compartment where it is stored on the engine. While I was the most experienced crew member, none of the firefighters on this crew had less than five years of experience, a factor that I feel later proved to be significant.

While we were responding to the scene, command advised that on arrival we were to spot the engine at the plug directly across the street from the fire building. Our assignment was to stretch a 2.5-inch smooth-bore pre-connect to suppress the fire. Our response route took us past the truck company's station. I noticed that the bay door was up, but that none of the truck's lights were on.

When we arrived at the scene, I had the engine positioned parallel and as close as possible to the curb opposite the structure. I knew that besides the truck company, which would be following, space would be needed for additional arriving companies. I instructed the firefighter who was not geared up to connect the engine's front intake to the hydrant. We were also met by three additional members of our company who were on scene as soon as we arrived.

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