Firefighter Down - Through The Floor & Into the Basement!

Mayday training definitely helped me in this situation and I have a new respect for these trainings.


A Lesson Reinforced: Nothing Is "Routine" About Firefighting The Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department in York County, PA, covers 44 square miles with a population of around 25,000. It is a suburban/rural, mainly residential community with several light commercial occupancies. The...


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A Lesson Reinforced: Nothing Is "Routine" About Firefighting

The Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department in York County, PA, covers 44 square miles with a population of around 25,000. It is a suburban/rural, mainly residential community with several light commercial occupancies. The department has 50 active firefighters operating one engine, one engine/tanker, a heavy rescue, a brush vehicle and a technical rescue trailer as part of the county's technical rescue team. In 2006, the department ran 621 calls. Our sincere thanks to Chief Glenn Jansen and the officers and members of the Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department for their assistance with this month's column.

The following account is by Firefighter Charles DeLauter:

On Jan. 25, 2007, at 9:19 A.M., our department was dispatched to a neighboring municipality for a second-alarm residential fire. We responded with a crew of six consisting of Deputy Chief Phil Blazosky, Captain Jim Schlosser Jr. and Firefighters Brain Knowlton, Brian Spangenberger and me, as well as our engine operator, Earl Garner. While approaching the scene of the fire, we heard another unit asking if it was to set up at the dry hydrant. Command reported negative, that the fire had been "pretty much knocked down" and to report directly to the scene for manpower. At this point, our crew assumed we would just be doing overhaul. Once on scene, the report we heard enroute proved to be false.

The house was a small, two-story Cape Cod with a full basement and a built-in garage at the A-B corner. A one-story addition protruded from side C. Heavy, thick brown smoke was pushing from the eaves. We were given an order to ventilate the windows on the first floor. As a result of our efforts, the fire began to intensify. The interior crew was not ready for the fire to intensify and had to bail from the building. After regrouping, our crew — minus our deputy chief, who had assumed operations — entered through a door on side D. This was Knowlton's first fire, so the captain had him take the nozzle and I led the way, sounding the floor with an axe as we went.

While we were making our way across the first floor, I was struck in the head by a hose stream from the exterior of the building and told the captain to get that line shut down. Upon reaching the stairwell in the center of the house on side A, the captain ordered us to the second floor, stating he had heavy fire conditions. The captain and Spangenberger climbed the stairs. I noticed fire coming around the corner from sector B and extending our way. I told the captain that I wanted to extinguish that fire before we went up the stairs and was given the OK. I moved that way, again sounding the floor as I went. I had moved five to six feet when the floor beneath me gave way and I fell into the basement.

When I began falling, I saw a door frame about two feet away and attempted to grab onto it, but missed. I landed face down in the basement facing side C. I was not pinned, so after readjusting my facepiece, which had been jarred loose in the fall, I turned to try to find a way out. Just then, however, a heavy object fell on top of me, pinning me to the floor face down against the wall (I later found out that the "object" was Knowlton, who had fallen in after me). I was unable to move and my facepiece was again jarred loose, this time by the chin strap from my helmet, which had been knocked off.

After calming down from a moment of panic, I tried but could not get to my PASS device to activate it. I did have a radio, which I used to call a Mayday. I tried several times, but no one answered me. I then heard my captain issuing a Mayday over his radio, but again there was no response. I had landed in the garage and I could see out the front. A firefighter was standing in the driveway and I thought "OK, he sees me and he will come get me." But all he did was stare at me. When I first fell, I had noticed a small amount of fire toward side C. I wasn't concerned at first because I could see out and thought I would be out in no time. But as the minutes ticked by, I started feeling heat coming up my leg under my bunker gear, and I became more concerned.

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