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On Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, at 10:01 A.M., the Mantua Township Fire District (MTFD) in New Jersey was dispatched to a dwelling fire with people reported trapped. While units were enroute, they were told by Gloucester County Communications that a woman was on the phone and reported being trapped in the house.
The chief forced a door, performed a quick search and found the woman in the rear bedroom. Conditions worsened and a lieutenant entered the room to help. Just then, the entire room flashed over, forcing the firefighters to self-extricate. The trapped woman was quickly extricated by other firefighters.
The MTFD is a combination department in Gloucester County. It consists of three engines, one rescue, one tender, one brush truck, one utility and three command vehicles responding out of two stations. There are six line officers – the chief, deputy chief, two captains and two lieutenants – and 43 active members and two full-time career personnel. Mantua Township is a 19.1-square-mile town with 15,963 residents.
The MTFD was formed in 2005 by voter approval. Five commissioners are elected to govern and provide finances from the tax base to support operations. The commission appoints a chief of department and deputy chief of operations, and the chief of department fills the other operation officer positions in the command structure.
The first-alarm assignment on Feb. 7 included MTFD Chief 2201 (Chief Brian Hauss), Engines 2212 and 2213, Rescue 2218 and Fire Marshal FM 22 (Nic Lamana), who was the engineer of Engine 2213, the second-due apparatus, and who took command upon his arrival. Pitman Fire Company No. 1 Ladder 2816 and Engine 2832 also were on the initial dispatch to the incident and the Woodbury (Ladder 516) and Washington Township (Rescue 1038) fire departments were dispatched as rapid intervention companies.
Our sincere appreciation to Chief Hauss, Lieutenant Michael Craft and all members and officers of the MTFD for their interest in sharing this close call. Additional thanks go to the Pitman, Woodbury and Washington Township departments, Gloucester County EMS and the Gloucester County Office of Emergency Response Fire/EMS Dispatchers. Special thanks also go out to the Mantua Police Department and the doctors and nurses at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center Burn Unit in Delaware County, PA, for their phenomenal assistance.
This account is by Chief Brian Hauss, who suffered serious burns during his attempts to perform the rescue, with details provided by Lieutenant Michael Craft:
I live less than a quarter-mile away from the incident. I responded in my command unit and arrived within one minute. While responding, I was told by Communications that they were on the phone with a female who was advising that she was trapped in the rear of the house. During this time, the first engine responded with a crew of five from our Union Avenue firehouse approximately five miles from the fire.
Upon arrival, I found a 40-by-12-foot mobile home; however, nothing was showing. I then performed a quick 360 where I located a female victim hanging out the rear window of the residence. I also observed light smoke inside the dwelling. I advised by radio that I had a smoke condition from the rear of the dwelling and that I would be forcing the door to attempt a rescue.
I returned to my command vehicle and donned my personal protective equipment (PPE) – turnout gear, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), hood and helmet. I forced the locked door with my halligan tool and performed a quick primary search of the residence to confirm that no one else was trapped. Fortunately, I had responded to that location on the previous Thursday in my full-time job as a police officer for a domestic call and was familiar with the layout of the dwelling.
While performing the search, there was slight smoke with no visible fire. I easily navigated the interior of the dwelling and quickly located the female. Immediately upon locating her in the rear bedroom, I attempted to push her out the rear window; however, the window was too small and the victim, who weighed approximately 220 pounds, was unable to cooperate.