Low Air: Quick Exit, Stay Calm, No Injuries

Harvey Eisner interviews a Fort Worth, TX, firefighter who experienced difficulties such as poor visibility, high heat and poor air supply in a narrow escape.


On Dec. 3, 2003, Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department En-gine 8 and Truck 8 quartered together began their tour of duty. Engine 8 consisted of Lieutenant David Collard, Driver Paul Jones, and Firefighters Bart Bradberry and Mike Pooler. The crew of Truck 8 was made up of Captain John Phillips, Driver...


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On Dec. 3, 2003, Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department En-gine 8 and Truck 8 quartered together began their tour of duty. Engine 8 consisted of Lieutenant David Collard, Driver Paul Jones, and Firefighters Bart Bradberry and Mike Pooler. The crew of Truck 8 was made up of Captain John Phillips, Driver Coda Griffay and Firefighters Vince Bonilla and Chuck Donaho.

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Photo by Glen Ellman
Firefighter Bart Bradberry climbs out a second-floor window after running low on air. High heat and separation from the hoseline forced him to find another exit. He was going to spin over the side of the roof and right himself and drop to the ground.

0204roof2.jpg
Photo by Glen Ellman
Firefighters reach up to catch Bradberry as he exits the building. Quint 17, the rapid intervention team, had already placed a ladder to the second floor, but because of the smoke and the heat cracking his mask, Bradberry was unable to see it.

0204roof3.jpg
Photo by Glen Ellman
After Bradberry reaches the ground, the damage to his faceshield is evident. His airmask and hood also were damaged.

0204roof4.jpg
Photo by Glen Ellman
Taken to rehab, Bradberry was fortunate not to have been injured.

At 8:30 A.M., Engine 8 responded as the fourth-due engine to a one-alarm assignment consisting of four engines, one truck, one quint and a battalion chief. The structure fire was reported at 3005 South Jennings Ave. Before their arrival, the crew of Engine 8 could see heavy smoke from a distance. The fire was in an occupied house, but the occupants had exited the building.

Heavy fire was visible from the first-floor rear of the two-story dwelling. Heavy smoke was visible. Engine 8 was assigned to the rear exposure D side. Two 13¼4-inch handlines were operating inside the first floor. Another handline was being used to knock down fire that had extended to an adjacent exposure on the B side. Fire was reported on the second floor of the fire building. No companies were operating upstairs.

The battalion chief ordered Engine 8 to stretch a handline to the second floor. Collard, Bradberry and Pooler took a line upstairs. Collard then left, telling the others he would be right back with a larger line. There was heavy fire in one room to the right and one room to the left at the top of the stairs. The fire was venting out of each room and meeting on the second-floor landing.

Collard returned with a 13¼4-inch handline as the firefighters were trying to extinguish the fire. They were experiencing high heat, and every time they knocked down the fire, it reignited. Firefighters were trying to keep the stairway from being blocked. They had a hard time trying to extinguish the fire. It turned out that the room had some type of concealed space that encircled the second floor.

The dwelling had a peaked roof, and the attic became well involved, where hoselines could not reach. Bradberry’s low-air alarm activated. The lieutenant, who was positioned right behind Bradberry, said his alarm also was sounding. The hoseline was shut down and the fire started to come back on the firefighters. The lieutenant told the firefighters to keep flowing water. He was going to go downstairs and direct a crew upstairs to relieve them. Visibility was poor and there was still high heat.

Truck 8 had cut two holes in the roof. When the relief crew came up to relieve Engine 8, Bradberry moved to his right and somehow his hand became caught in Pooler’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Bradberry jerked his hand loose and became separated from Pollard and the hoseline. Bradberry thought he was right near the stairway, but instead he found a wall. Now he was lost.

Bradberry was concerned about his air supply. He knew he needed to find an exit, there was no time to find the stairs. Bradberry turned to his right and saw lighter smoke at a window. Bradberry stuck his head through the window, took off his regulator and yelled for a ladder. High heat and smoke forced him to put his regulator back in place. The SCBA he was wearing has an integrated PASS device. Concerned about his air supply being very low, he remembered the ladder bailout technique that was taught to every member of the department. Bradberry thought he could use the same technique. He intended to glide out the window, and when his legs became clear he would drop and land on his feet.

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