Close Calls: Firefighters Burned In Mega-Mansion Fire

This is the conclusion of a two-part report on operations at a March 19, 2011, house fire in Huntingtown, MD, at which 10 firefighters were injured, including four who received significant burns. Fire and rescue personnel from the Huntingtown Volunteer...

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Chief 6C, at this time positioned in the foyer area assisting with hoseline advancement, observed a rapid increase in smoke visible up the stairwell and then fire in the two-story great room. Chief 6C reported fire was visible to the approximate level of the first-floor ceiling in the great room. Chief 5B, positioned in the great room near the first-floor fireplace, saw fire progress down the stairway and “blow out the front door.” On the exterior, Huntingtown Command recognized these conditions and called for an evacuation.

In the second-floor bedroom, the officer from Engine 6-2 became separated from his firefighter on the nozzle and ultimately jumped from the second-floor window, landing on the first-floor overhang before landing on the grassy surface on side Alpha. The firefighter from Engine 6-2 and a firefighter from Squad 6 operating in the bedroom retreated to the stairway. Multiple firefighters operating in the open area on the second floor reacted to the rapid fire progress by immediately implementing survival techniques. Firefighters partnered up with other firefighters by holding onto airpacks and rapidly descended the stairs. At least one firefighter found the hoseline and followed it until the banister surrounding the stairwell was located. Several firefighters, upon locating the banister, jumped or fell to the first floor.

Chief 2, operating as Division 2, on the second floor encountered a rapid heat buildup while standing next to the railing around the stairwell. Chief 2 sounded his PASS (audible warning device) to serve as a beacon for other firefighters on the second floor before following the hose down the stairs. Once in the foyer area, Chief 2 helped pull down hoselines from the second floor and gather equipment. When Chief 2 discovered a helmet from a Company 2 firefighter, Chief 2 conducted a face-to-face accountability check with Engine 2-1 and Tower 2 before confirming all personnel from Company 2 were accounted for with Huntingtown Command.

Emergency transmissions

The following radio transmissions outline the emergency:

Huntingtown Command: “6C, come in and I need accountability right away.”

Chief 6C: “(Vibralert sounds)…I am still trying to verify that everyone has come out…(Vibralert sounds)…start a few ambulances, I know we’ve got people hurt.”

Huntingtown Command: “I cannot, can’t copy a word you’re saying, Chief.”

Chief 6C: “(Vibralert sounds)…I am still inside on Division 2, trying to verify that everyone is out…start an ALS unit and a few ambulances. (Chief 6A) I know we’ve got people hurt.”

Huntingtown Command: “Alright, the only thing I got is that you got a couple people hurt, they’re in the front yard. Your mask is going off. I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

Chief 6C: “(Vibralert sounds)…I’m inside verifying that everyone is out.” Chief 6C and 5B remained in the first-floor foyer area for a few minutes to ensure all firefighters were accounted for and had exited the home. “Start me three ambulances for now, Calvert. I’ll get back to you in a minute.”

Medic 102 had requested aero medical evacuation resources in the form of helicopters from Maryland State Police as soon as firefighters appeared in the doorway evacuating the house.

Huntingtown Command: “Please somebody get on the handlines.”

Chief 6C: “(Vibralert sounds)...(unreadable transmission).”

Huntingtown Command: “Safety Officer 6, come in. Safety Officer 6, come in.”

Unknown unit: “Engine 2, I need water.”

Huntingtown Command: “I need to know if we’re all clear. I still see people coming out that front door.”

Duty Chief: “Duty Chief, Chief 2 and Chief 6C, we’re all here making sure everybody’s out.”

Huntingtown Command: “Alright, now I want one of you to let me know who’s hurt, how many guys and the severity of injuries immediately.”

Duty Chief: “I’ll get that to you in one second.”

Tower 2 Portable: “Be advised that when I was coming out, the homeowner was inside. You need to make sure that homeowner got out.”

Huntingtown Command: “Yeah, I think he dove out that window, I think I saw him come out the front.”

Duty Chief: “Duty Chief to Command.”

Unknown unit: “Command, I got that second supply line coming back. I’m not going to be able to make it duals with 2-2. I’m going to have to lay their thousand out and then use their LDH (large-diameter hose).”