Firefighter Missing! Or Is He?

Keeping track of firefighters has never been easy. All kinds of folks claim to have great systems that solve the problem. I recently spoke to an individual who claimed that he had the invention; all he needed was "a boatload of cash" to get it going. That...


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Command advised to advance a 2½-inch hoseline through the front of the building, find and attack the fire. One other firefighter and I entered the building through the front door and advanced the hose (uncharged) to the back of the building interior and up the stairway to the second floor. A third firefighter, Firefighter Justin Jones, was left at the front door.

Once upstairs, we encountered a set of double doors with heavy smoke and fire inside the second-floor business. I called the engine and had the line charged as we opened the door to the offices. We attempted to extinguish the fire. We played the 2½-inch line into the fire occupancy and blackened down all of the fire within our immediate reach. I then called command and asked for another crew or some kind of help to continue pushing hose. My partner went downstairs to try and pull up some hose. Apparently, this firefighter spoke to Firefighter Jones, and Jones moved from the front door, inside the building, to the area of the stairwell.

Around this same time, as my partner rejoined me upstairs, my audi-alarm activated on my airpack. We notified command and prepared to exit down the stairwell. As we were exiting, we met a crew of three firefighters at the bottom of the stairs. Unbeknownst to me, Firefighter Jones had joined that team of his own accord. In the heat and gravity of the moment, we did not recognize him. We gave them a quick briefing on the upstairs conditions and then we exited the building.

At this same time, command had been watching changing fire conditions and ordered a building evacuation. As we exited, I briefed the IC on the conditions we had left. We had a brief discussion about Firefighter Jones and I advised the IC that he never went upstairs with us. We then went to rehab.

I do not remember a lot about the rest of the time Firefighter Jones was being looked for. We were in rehab at the time. I remember the IC asking for a PAR and one of our other firefighters answering. The IC said he was not looking for that firefighter (Jones) and the search continued.

This account is by Firefighter Justin Jones:

At the time of this call, I had eight months on the job. My shift was not scheduled to start for another minute yet – not that it mattered, I wanted to go on the run – but I was sent on the call and rode on Ladder 1. Upon arrival, I pulled the five-inch hose off the back of the ladder to hook the ladder into the hydrant. I tried to flush the hydrant, but it would not open completely.

At this time, I was told to get ready to go into the building with the entry crew. I do not remember who gave me this order, just that it was given. I joined up with Lieutenant Olinger and another firefighter. I broke the glass out of the front door and cleared the entry. Lieutenant Olinger and the other firefighter entered the building with a 2½-inch hoseline and headed toward the rear of the building. Several minutes later, the firefighter returned down the stairs to the entry point where he met me. He told me to come to the base of the stairs inside the building and push hose up the stairs for them.

I stayed at the base of the stairs feeding hose for a while, and then I noticed that another team of two firefighters had entered the building. They identified themselves as a mutual aid crew and stayed at the bottom of the stairs with me until our initial crew began running low on air and needed to exit. As our crew came downstairs, they briefed all of us at the bottom on the conditions upstairs. I told the firefighter that I would be going upstairs with the mutual aid crew to help them out. This never got passed on to Lieutenant Olinger and it was not understood by the other firefighter. He may not have recognized me in the heat of the moment.

I then went upstairs with the crew and we encountered heavy smoke and heat. Very soon after this, the evacuation tones sounded. I heard the evacuation tone and told the mutual aid crew that we needed to exit. They said we were in the exposure building and that we were OK. I was able to hear command doing a radio search for a missing Bartow firefighter. I did not think they were talking about me, as I had told the outgoing firefighter that I was going upstairs. That said, I tried to call the IC and tell him my position in the building. The radio transmission was never clearly understood by the IC. He called back one or two times, trying to confirm the transmission, but could never clearly understand what was said.