Close Calls: Multiple Challenges –Then a Firefighter Trapped

“One civilian fatality, seven firefighters injured, Mayday and the rescue of a lost, unconscious firefighter, complete building loss...” Firefighters in Oconomowoc, WI, are breathing a sigh of relief after a close call as one of their own narrowly...


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The WWR RIC team made entry from the A-side, second-floor window and experienced the same high heat and zero-visibility smoke the previous crew had been operating in. The team did not have the protection of a hoseline, but did have a search rope, which was used. The members performed a search of the small apartment and initially could not find the downed lieutenant. No personal alert safety system (PASS) device was heard. The crew radioed command when they heard pounding, not knowing if it was the lieutenant or exterior firefighting operations. While searching for the location of the pounding, the team found the lieutenant in a small bathroom unconscious but still breathing. No PASS device was sounding – his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) was sent to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for testing; the results are pending – and his low-air alarm had already stopped since he was 100% out of air. The lieutenant had pulled his hood over his mouth to use it as a filter. After a quick assessment, they dragged him out of the building.

The RIC members had to drag the lieutenant past the deceased victim. He was transferred through the window on the A-side, second floor, to the ladder and then to EMS on the ground. He was given oxygen and IVs and quickly transported to Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital. It should be noted that on rescue and initial evaluation, the lieutenant’s core temperature was 104 degrees and his carbon monoxide level was over 40 ppm with it being 20 ppm on arrival at Oconomowoc Hospital.

Following the successful search, rescue and removal of the downed lieutenant, command made the decision to go defensive and not risk any more firefighters to try to save the already deceased victim. For the next five hours, firefighters battled the fire. Crews had difficulty extinguishing fire due to void spaces created by several remodels and three layers of roofing. Eventually, the fire was under control enough to retrieve the victim. Due to the extreme heat of the day, 16 fire departments from three counties were used to extinguish the fire.

Next: Lessons learned

 

On behalf of my family, myself and the officers and members of my department, we wish you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. Please keep our troops in your prayers, especially those who are unable to be home during the holidays. n