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During ventilation, fans ceased to work because they were being exposed to extensive steam and water vapor. We had to rotate fans and allow the affected fans to dry out before they could be rotated back into service.
I conferred with Stemler and it was determined that the crew from Engine 85-2 was distressed over Angstadt's accident and needed to be removed from active service. I ordered a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team to the scene and hospital chaplains to talk to and work with the involved firefighters until the CISM team could arrive.
This account is by Deputy Fire Chief Michael P. Roth of the Township Of Spring Volunteer Fire Department:
The Township of Spring Volunteer Fire Department (Company 85) was dispatched on a mutual aid response to the Reading Hospital for a possible structure fire in Building G. Upon arrival, the Engine 852 crew — in full personal protective equipment (PPE) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) — was directed to report to Wyomissing Truck 79 for assignment. There, the crew was directed by Wyomissing Career Firefighter Ohlinger to attempt to make entry into the basement via the outside stairs. Crew accountability tags were given to Ohlinger. I arrived and Ohlinger directed me to the crew from Engine 852 that was getting ready to make entry for the search. I joined the crew, also wearing full PPE and SCBA, after handing my accountability tag to Ohlinger. At the bottom of the stairs we encountered five to six inches of warm water. Before making entry, all personnel donned facemasks and went on air. Career Firefighter Rhoads (Company 85) entered the basement, first sounding the floor, followed by Volunteer Lieutenant Angstadt (Company 85) and the remaining crew from our station.
As the crew advanced deeper into the basement, there was approximately two to three inches of warm/hot water on the floor. Rhoads and Angstadt continued to sound the floor and remain in contact with the wall. All areas remained stable. Rhoads and Firefighter Yeager (Company 85) found the door that led to the office. Heavy metal panels were blocking the door. Rhoads moved one panel to the right of the door and it fell into a large void space that was filled with water. Rhoads sounded that area and found a stairway consisting of three to four stairs. When sliding an axe along the area, it was found that there was a dropoff approximately four feet deep from the area the crew was standing. All crewmembers in the area were made aware of the dropoff and items in the room started to be stacked in that area to be sure no one would fall into the dropoff.
I entered the basement behind my crew and was followed by a crew from Wyomissing (Company 79), who came down with a long line rope tied off at the top of the stairs to the outside. Angstadt ordered Rhoads and Yeager to force open the office door. While they did so, Angstadt walked behind them to provide light. He stepped back into a void space, which had approximately four feet of hot water in it. Angstadt screamed, "My leg, I'm burning." A Mayday was called, but transmissions were not getting out. One of the Wyomissing firefighters went over to the outside doorway and yelled out to Ohlinger that there was a firefighter down. Angstadt was lifted out of the water by his SCBA strap and carried up and out of the basement, then turned over to a waiting crew from Western Berks EMS (Medic 655). Angstadt was transported a short distance to Reading Hospital's Trauma Unit, where treatment started.
During that time, I had to make the hardest phone call I've ever had to make, which was to call his parents — who were in South Carolina on vacation — and tell them their son was burned.
This account is by Lieutenant Kevin Angstadt of the Township of Spring Volunteer Fire Department, who sustained burns while operating at this emergency: