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April 16, 2007, was a tragic day in Prince William County, VA. On this day, Technician I Kyle R. Wilson died in the line of duty while performing a primary search of a single-family residence. This was the first line-of-duty death in the 41-year history of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue and his loss has dramatically affected all of the fire and rescue providers in Prince William County. We will never forget Kyle and by sharing our knowledge unfortunately gained from our pain, we will ensure that he is not forgotten nor will his sacrifice have been in vain.
Prince William County is 35 miles southwest of Washington, DC. It is a rapidly developing urban, suburban and rural community, encompassing 348 square miles and a population estimated at over 386,000. The county's fire and rescue services are provided by a combination career and volunteer system. The career Department of Fire and Rescue and 12 independent volunteer organizations make up the fire and rescue service where collectively they work together to staff 19 fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On this fateful day, the region experienced a severe northeastern storm that was moving off the Atlantic coast. There were significant sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45-plus mph. At 6:01 A.M., the Communication Center received the first 911 call for a house fire. A second 911 call was received at 6:02 and the incident was dispatched at 6:03.
The first-due engine company marked on the scene at 6:08 and reported heavy fire showing on sides B and C of a two-story single-family home. A ladder truck, the unit Technician Wilson was staffing, arrived right behind the engine. The engine and tower officers independently performed a size-up of the structure and met to establish a coordinated action plan. During their size-up, cars were observed in the driveway as well as on the street in front of the house. There were no interior lights on in the house and given the early-morning time, an occupant-rescue situation was suspected. Both crews planned to proceed to the second floor to accomplish a search of the bedroom areas first and to advance a hoseline. Interior conditions on the first floor were reported as light smoke with no heat. Upon ascending the foyer stairs to the second floor, the tower's crew encountered smoke at the ceiling level banked down approximately three to four feet from the ceiling.
The tower officer and Technician Wilson were performing a primary search of the master bedroom when conditions rapidly deteriorated, changing to thick black smoke, zero visibility and high heat. Reacting to the change, the tower crew began to evacuate the bedroom to exit the structure. Intense fire and extreme heat rapidly moved down the hallway toward the master bedroom. While crawling into the hallway, the officer became entangled with a table that caused a fall down approximately five to six stairs to a curve in the staircase. The tower officer immediately called back for Technician Wilson, who indicated he was having difficulty locating the stairs.
Concurrently, an emergency evacuation was sounded and two crews operating in the foyer area observed a white helmet appear in a ball of fire in the staircase and foyer area. The crews reached in to that area, located the tower officer and quickly removed the officer to the front yard. The tower officer reported that Technician Wilson was still on the second floor and believed to be in or near the staircase.
Two Mayday radio transmissions immediately followed. The first Mayday report was from a unit reporting the tower crew was missing a firefighter. This was immediately followed by a Mayday transmission from Technician Wilson, stating he was trapped inside, unsure of his exact location, but felt he was somewhere in the stairwell and needed someone to come get him out.