Close Calls: Firefighter Seriously Burned While Attempting Searches

University Heights, OH, Firefighter Paul Nees, with 33 years on the job, has returned to work full time on his regular shift, but why he was out of work is the subject of this month’s close call. There are several aspects of this fire to look at...


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I helped the family by moving them to the front of the house while evaluating their medical condition, and I asked them to wait in the police cars until the rescue squad arrived. I also asked the family specific questions about the conditions they experienced inside the house and what some of them saw when they exited from the rear of the house – which gave me a little information about the C side that I was not yet able to see. So, even though I did not do a 360 because I was helping the family, I did get some information from the people who were on the C side, and they reported no visible flames. Even the police officer who was on the C side did not notice any visible flames.

Shortly thereafter, when the rear sliding-glass door disintegrated and a flashover occurred, I sent a handline to the rear (C side) to do an exterior attack, which allowed us, as the first-arriving firefighters, to have a view of all sides of the structure. Lieutenant Ken Breuning from Shaker Heights Fire arrived on the scene and I asked him to do a complete 360 and to supervise exterior operations on the C side.

Upon initial arrival of the first-alarm companies (six firefighters on our two apparatus), the firefighters advanced the handline through the front door, then forward to the left of a stairway toward the doorway where the front living room enters the kitchen. From there, the crew leader, Paul Nees, told the nozzleman, Doug Robinson, to open up the nozzle. Robinson said he shot the open-tip nozzle forward (which would have hit the seat of the fire at its point of origin), and also up and down, and back and forth at the ceiling.

Paul immediately told the team to retreat because he felt flashover temperatures occurring. He later reported that he was unable to pick up the line to help protect the crew because his hands felt like they were burning. Doug reported that he tried to turn the nozzle back so that he could retreat with it, but the line was pressurized to a point that it tended to lift him up as he tried to turn it, so he laid it down on the floor and retreated along the charged line.

When Doug made it out of the front door, he told the third team member, Tom Hren (who had been helping to advance the house from the area of the front door near the living-room stairway), to help get Paul out. Tom said he advanced about five steps into the house to the left of the front door, grabbed Paul by the arm and pulled him (or helped him crawl) out of the house. Paul was in extreme pain due to the burns he was receiving inside his turnout gear, so Tom and Doug helped remove his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and turnout gear. (Tom apparently received a burn to his own hands while helping remove Paul’s tank.) When they removed Paul’s turnout coat, blistered skin from the burns on his arms came off with the coat. Water from the hoseline was used to douse Paul’s skin and try to remove the heat from Paul’s skin. The police officers on the scene also went to their vehicles to get bottles of water to pour on Paul’s wounds, as there was no EMS on the scene at this point. n Next: The first few minutes

 

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