"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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The involved structure was a two-story wood-frame of balloon construction. A heavy volume of fire was evident from the C-D corner. Exposure A was the street. Exposure B was a similar wood-frame residence. Exposure C was the rear yard. Exposure D was the headquarters of the local rescue squad, which provides first aid and extrication services to our community and a neighboring jurisdiction. The rescue squad was in jeopardy due to the radiant heat from the fire. There was approximately a 15-foot gap between the fire building and exposure D.

As I approached the fire building to take my hose crew in through the front door, I briefly spoke to the operations chief. We agreed that there was an immediate need to get the second line, which was already in the process of being stretched, on the exposure to prevent extension. When the second line was assigned to the exposure, a third line was immediately requested to back up the attack line.

When I had my crew assembled and ready to proceed, I instructed the firefighter at the rear to stay in the doorway to feed the hose as we advanced. The line was staffed by a nozzleman and two additional firefighters in addition to the firefighter in the doorway. The nozzleman bled the air out of the line and experienced what appeared to be a normal flow from the line. I proceeded with the three firefighters who advanced into the structure. We encountered heavy black smoke and a significant amount of heat. About 10 feet into the structure, the fire became visible at the rear of the house, through a doorway.

At the same moment, some rollover of the fire was observed above us at the ceiling. The nozzleman opened up and the rollover immediately darkened down. He then directed the stream at the main body of fire. While I felt that we were making progress, I also noted that the stream from the smooth-bore nozzle did not "sound" normal. It seemed that it might possibly be sputtering. We then proceeded no more than another two feet when we encountered a bed in the center of the room that we would have to get around to continue to advance. At the same time, there was additional rollover accompanied by ignition of the hollow-core door from the doorway through which we had entered the room. The nozzle was redirected briefly to extinguish the fire that had erupted behind our position.

As we again turned back to the main body of fire, the nozzleman advised me that he had lost his helmet. I told him to get out and saw him dive over the hose crew and exit through the door. The next firefighter on the line assumed the nozzle position. The firefighter who had been feeding hose at the doorway moved up to assist with the advance. Immediately, conditions deteriorated rapidly. We were again met with rollover, and the nozzleman opened up on this fire. When the line was opened this time, the hose went significantly soft. I thought that there might be a kink in the hose and was preparing to direct the firefighters outside to straighten the line. Also, as I looked up to monitor our progress as well as the conditions; I noted a significant amount of heat from behind me. I then looked farther over my shoulder and noticed that a large volume of fire was blowing at us from the rear of our position, through the doorway through which we had entered the room we were in.

Even with proper water pressure, the amount of fire evident necessitated an immediate exit of the hose crew. I instructed the firefighters to back out. The third and fourth firefighters were able to immediately exit. I continued to call to the nozzleman to exit, but he was not moving back. I reached for the neck area of his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder and pulled him out of the room, handing him off to one of the other hose crew firefighters, who were now on the front porch. (The firefighter later told me that he believed that his SCBA was entangled, preventing his immediate exit.)

I then retreated to the porch and, with the assistance of the hose crew, pulled the line which we had been forced to abandon back out of the structure. Once I had the nozzle, I opened it up and directed it at the body of fire, which was immediately above my head in the doorway. The fire immediately darkened down. While attacking the fire from this location, it was again evident that we had a problem maintaining an adequate flow of water. I handed the line off to the hose crew and advised them not to advance until the water supply problem was resolved. The third line stretched was now also in operation and both lines were put through windows from the front porch.