Killer Bees: Firefighters Train To Respond To Attacks

Tim Szymanski reports on the training Las Vegas firefighters are receiving as the region faces a new emergency - attacks by Africanized honey bees.


In the spring of 1999, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Cullins hosted a meeting attended by all the emergency response organizations in southern Nevada about a hazard they may face “someday.” Later that year, it actually happened. On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1999 at 10:30...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

In the spring of 1999, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Cullins hosted a meeting attended by all the emergency response organizations in southern Nevada about a hazard they may face “someday.” Later that year, it actually happened.

On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1999 at 10:30 A.M., 11-year-old Britianie Ensign let her two pet Rottweilers outside before she left for church. She soon heard one dog whining, and ran outside to investigate. She saw the dog lying on the ground. The dog was covered with bees – “The bees covered him like a blanket,” she said. She picked up a garden hose and sprayed water on the dog to get rid of the bees, but many of the bees left the dog and started to attack her. She fell to the ground, trying to escape as a large number of bees surrounded her head. With even more bees joining the attack, she got up and ran back into the house.

At the same time, the girl’s grandmother drove up to take her to church and saw the bees attacking her granddaughter. The woman stayed in her car and called 911 on a cellular phone. Britianie ran into the house and escaped the bulk of the bees that were still attacking the dog.

Las Vegas Fire & Rescue received the 911 call at 10:39 A.M. When Engine 42 and Rescue 42 arrived, the crews saw that the backyard was full of flying bees. As firefighters left their units and dressed in full protective clothing and SCBA, they saw many bees flying around in the street. The captain of Engine 42 requested an additional engine, a battalion chief and the public information officer. The firefighters on Engine 42 were sure that they had encountered the first Africanized honey bee (AHB) or “Killer Bee” attack in the city.

Captain Jess Campbell of Engine 42 took his crew into the backyard to assess what was going on. They discovered that Britianie was in the house and was safe. She told firefighters she was stung several times, but she felt fine. They told her to stay in the house. A firefighter was assigned to stand outside the front door and monitor her condition. The crew also found out that a 21-year-old woman and her 3-year-old daughter were in an apartment atop a detached garage in the backyard. They too were told to stay inside.

The crew of Engine 42 also found a stack of old bee hive boxes in the backyard and it appeared that was where the bees were coming from. They later found out the boxes had been vacant for nearly 10 years. Bee keepers believe a swarm probably occupied the old boxes a few days before. Battalion 4 Chief Doug Johnson arrived and requested another engine company to respond, and to go door to door and alert nearby residents of the bees. As firefighters went door to door, they found that the bees had stung at least six other people and two other dogs.

Johnson set up a perimeter of approximately a quarter mile and closed the street off to traffic. His goal was to make the area as quiet and calm as possible. Public Information Officer Tim Szymanski also arrived on the scene to make sure the media representatives did not go into the danger area. “Killer Bee” stories were making the news in recent times and the media was expected to respond in numbers. The PIO also used a video camera to tape what firefighters were doing at the incident. He then provided the video to the local news media to use with their stories.

Johnson requested the response of an exterminator company. Unable to find an exterminator that could respond quickly, Fire Dispatch located a beekeeper who went to the scene. Escorted by firefighters, the bee keeper went into the back yard to look at the hive boxes and the swarm. When they got there, they found the dog lying on the ground next to the hive box. It appeared the dog had died because of the massive attack. The bee keeper advised Johnson that as long as the dead dog remained in the backyard, the bees would continue to be aggressive.

This content continues onto the next page...