Close Call While Searching For Life

While searching for trapped children, fire broke out in the walls, causing firefighters to exit just before flashover. Harvey Eisner reports on this a two-alarm structure fire that took place Feb. 28, 2004 in Buffalo, NY.


At 12:26 A.M. on Feb. 28, 2004, in Buffalo, NY, a first-alarm assignment consisting of three engines, two ladders, Rescue 1, Battalion 3 and the division chief responded to a house fire at 84 Eller St. The location was one block from the eastern city line. A second alarm was transmitted within a few...


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Lombardo called on the radio and yelled to make sure everyone was out. A firefighter he was looking for was reported outside, so Lombardo went out the window. One minute later, the entire room flashed over. The fire had burned through a hoseline on the second floor and the crew had lost water at the same time everyone had begun to back out. An accountability check of all units was requested after Lombardo exited the building. The roof was sagging and exterior streams knocked down the heavy fire.

Lombardo recalled that the search was difficult. Firefighters had been told that 10 children were trapped inside, and when they found two, they expected that there would be more. Communication is crucial, as in this case, when firefighters searching for victims were quickly told that the children were already out. Accountability on a basic level is tough, especially when several crews are working together in heavy heat and smoke. It was difficult for firefighters to open the roof when most of the truck company members were heavily engaged in the search.