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Upon turning around to notify the operations chief of our problem and attempting to figure out the cause, I noticed that the five-inch suction line that was connected from the engine to the front of the pumper was virtually flat from the cavitation that was being caused due to an inadequate flow from the hydrant. A firefighter verified that the hydrant and the pumper intake valves were open in an attempt, without success, to rectify the problem. All attempts at an interior attack were put on hold until a secondary five-inch line could be laid.
Once the second supply was established, two hose crews advanced simultaneously through the interior, one along the B side and the other along the D side. They were informed that the fire behavior indicated that the first floor had a circular floor plan, as indicated by the initial experience of the fire blowing back around behind the hose team. Both hose crews were advised to proceed with caution due to the layout of the first floor. Both crews advanced under the direction of lieutenants and the main body of fire was knocked down.
In my opinion, the fire reinforced several of basic principles:
- Wear all of your personal protective equipment and don it properly. The first nozzleman, while he did not suffer any injury, certainly created an issue by not wearing his helmet strap.
Despite the problems that were encountered, I feel that this fire was a Close Calls success story. We were fortunate that the crew was experienced and well trained. Even when unanticipated conditions were encountered, the team reacted well and overcame the problems without injuries. I hope this experience could be used to help our brother and sister firefighters stay safe in the event that they experience a similar situation.
These comments are based on Chief Goldfeder's observations and communications with the writer and others regarding this incident:
In this month's Close Calls report, we have a rare opportunity to view video of this actual fire that is available to those of you that can access the internet. See The Video Here!.
As you watch the video, you will see that as the fire begins to take over the front door, the third and fourth firefighters from the hose crew will exit, stand up on the porch and appear, through their body motions, to become noticeably excited. They are alerting the operations chief that the nozzleman and the captain are still inside the structure as the fire begins to take control of the doorway. You also will notice the original nozzleman, who lost his helmet, coming into view toward the D side of the door. He then proceeds to exit the porch.
The fire continues to grow in intensity and, with no other hoseline at the doorway, continues to grow in the doorway through which the firefighters must exit. Then you will see the nozzleman, who the captain pulled by his SCBA and handed off to a firefighter on the porch, exit the doorway toward the B side. Finally, the captain's helmet emerges at about the same level as the bottom of the flames. The hose crew and the captain then begin to pull out the hoseline which they did not have time to take with them in their retreat. Once the nozzle is reached, it is directed up by the captain at the volume of fire in the doorway and the fire darkens down.
As we watched this video, we could not help but think that this could easily be any fire department. And while the incident did end with a positive outcome, the issues noted by the captain are worthy of discussion at all of our firehouses. And when discussing this or any fire, we must consider the critical role of all firefighters and chiefs - but especially the role of the company officer.
- We are never at a loss to find photos of firefighters not wearing or not properly wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE). Your PPE includes your helmet, the straps, hood, eye protection, bunker coat, gloves, bunker pants, boots and SCBA, with a goal of no exposed skin. Who must make sure that happens when a firefighter "forgets"? The company officer.
In this month's column, the value of a competent company officer with well-trained firefighters is once again proven. Anyone can ride the front seat and blow the siren, but it takes a competent company officer who arrived at the fire riding that front seat to train-em, lead-em and bring-em all home.