Close Calls

Survivors share their dangerous fireground experiences and detail the lessons learned from them.


We have been asking readers to share their accounts of incidents in which firefighters found themselves in dangerous or life-threatening situations, with the intention of sharing the information and learning from one another to reduce injuries and deaths. These accounts, in the firefighters’ own...


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The message here is, remember not all automatic fire alarms are malfunctions. I commend our lieutenant not only for his professional conduct as incident commander, but on his life-saving decision to withdraw the manpower and proceed with an aggressive exterior attack.

“Lost In A Forest Of Chrome Pipes”

I responded to a structure fire in a two-story building that was occupied by a lodge of some sort. Myself and one other firefighter were assigned to search the second floor. This area consisted of one large room used for dances. In this room were approximately 100 cocktail tables and 300-plus barstools, all of which had chrome-plated legs. This room also had four-foot-high dividers placed randomly to provide smaller seating areas.

As I was searching in heavy smoke conditions I lost contact with one of the walls (not all the partitions were connected with the outside walls). It was rather unnerving to be lost in a forest of chrome pipes. I stopped what I was doing and told myself that my training has taught me what to do in this type of situation. After I collected my thoughts, I looked at the floor and there was my roadmap, the floor was covered with black and white tiles. I picked a line and crawled to a wall and safety.

How To Lose A Firefighter

We were called on mutual aid to a working house fire that started in the garage of a raised-ranch home with a person working on a car with a droplight and gasoline. You guessed it ... ka-boom! I have pictures of the initial two departments with multiple handlines pushing into the house. The next thing you see is a firefighter walking out of the garage area after falling through the floor in one of the bedrooms. No one had any idea why he was where he was.

This was one of the classic examples of how to lose a home ... and a firefighter.