Firefighters Burned In Mega-Mansion Fire

For years, fire departments were simply reactive response organizations that went out when “the bell” rang. We took the same amount of equipment and number of people to every run, no matter how different the buildings were. While most departments...

00:06:51 – Chief 6C: “Alright, 6C is on scene. Side Alpha two-story, large single family. I got heavy smoke from the attic area, working fire. Dispatch Calvert.”

Chief 6C arrived and gave an initial on-scene report as detailed above. Moderate, dark smoke with little to no velocity (described as “wafting”) was observed coming from the eaves of the second-floor gable ends in the area of the side Alpha/Delta corner, but no fire was observed. Not communicated during this on-scene report was the condition of three levels in the rear of the house. Chief 6C reported that the size-up was made from the driver’s seat with the window down. The vehicle was parked in a grassy area to the right of the driveway facing side Alpha of the house.

The completion of a 360-degree size-up was complicated by an occupant of the home who was present at the chief’s vehicle window and may have indicated that an older occupant was still inside the home. While it is understandable that the three levels may not have been visible from the positioning of the first-arriving unit and that it may be necessary to complete other tasks prior to a full size-up, it is critical to conduct a full 360-degree size-up as soon as the situation may allow.

After discussing the size of the structure, Chief 6A directed 6C to “go to a second alarm.” Chief 6A also recognized early that the house was of a significant size. It is commendable that this was recognized, but this information needs to be captured and disseminated to any potential responders and surrounding companies and reviewed prior to an incident for any structure of a significant size or complexity that may complicate fire suppression operations.

Despite the absence of visible fire, Chief 6C interpreted the smoke conditions as indicating the presence of a significant fire in the attic space and intended that the first-in engine (Engine 62) lay dual lines from the driveway split, with the second-in Engine (Engine 21) completing the lay. However, the plan for dual lines was not communicated to responding units: “(Engine) 62, lay out from the gravel portion, lay out from the gravel portion. Next engine in complete the lay out to…err…excuse me…to Soper. (Chief 6A) go ahead and take command when you get here, I’m going inside.”

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