With Nothing Showing Initially... Part 1

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...


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The woman became extremely combative, so I moved behind her in an attempt to pull her from the room to the front door. While attempting to make the rescue as well as control the victim, I fell and became slightly disoriented. I was unable to make any further radio transmissions because I was struggling with the woman. At that exact moment, a mattress and numerous other contents in the room caught fire and conditions deteriorated drastically.

Now that the fire was behind me, I tried again to remove the victim through the window, but she still could not cooperate. I then had the police chief, who was outside, pull the whole window out of the sill and widen the window. I was in the dwelling alone for three or four minutes until the first-due engine company arrived. While I was attempting to remove the victim, Lieutenant Michael Craft, who arrived on Engine 2212 as one of the four crew members, entered the residence and attempted to help me remove the victim. We both tried one last time to force the victim through the window; however, we were unsuccessful, at which time the room flashed. Craft and I remained in the room for too long and we both began to burn up. We self-extricated through the window. I was told I was on fire at this point, but I don’t recall.

It should be noted that upon the arrival of Engine 2212, the crew did not know we had a working fire due to my report of nothing showing. It wasn’t until they arrived that they saw smoke and stretched a single 1¾-inch handline. Because they did not know of any fire condition, a water supply was not established until the arrival of Engine 2213 about two minutes later. Engine 2212’s officer and a crew member stretched the line, but never made the fire room while I was inside.

When I self-extricated from the window, I was found on the Charlie Division back lawn by Chief of Police Rodney Sawyer and the engineer of Engine 2212 (career Firefighter Sam Valora), who was ventilating the rear of the dwelling. They both said that when I came out of the residence I was smoking and had burning particles from inside of the residence on my SCBA, leg and boots.

Immediately upon exiting the rear of the dwelling. I was turned over to members of the Gloucester County EMS (basic life support, BLS) and pulled to the front lawn. A BLS and advanced life support (ALS) unit each were initially dispatched due to reports of entrapment, but the ALS unit did not arrive until just before I was loaded into the ambulance.

Once out of the dwelling, Craft and I were cared for by members of the Gloucester County EMS, BLS 82-65, and transported to Cooper Medical Center with third-degree facial burns. The woman was quickly extricated by the crew from our engine companies 2212 and 2213 as well as our mutual aid companies from neighboring Pitman 2816 and 2832. Crews had to cut the exterior wall to remove the victim, who was quickly turned over to EMS and transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center with burns to 80% of her body. During the rescue, crews made a quick knock on the fire and held it to the room of origin, which was the victim’s bedroom and where she was located.

I did not realize that I was seriously injured until I was in the rear of the ambulance and had my turnout pants cut off of me. I could see Craft next to me with skin hanging off of his hand and ears, knowing that I was in worse condition because I was the one on the stretcher.

After being transported to Cooper, I was transferred to Crozer-Chester Medical Center with third-degree burns to my ears and second-degree burns on my right leg. Craft was released from Cooper with second-degree burns to his right ear and right hand that he sustained while struggling with the woman, which caused him to lose his right glove in the fire.

Craft said that upon his arrival, he did not know I was inside the residence alone until advised by an EMT on scene. He said that when he made entry into the residence the room I was in was well involved; however, he could hear me struggling with the woman in the room and attempted to assist me.

Craft said that immediately upon entering the room, he saw it flash. He tried to help push the victim one more time and he jumped out of the room. He said he did not know if I had exited, but human nature took over and he had to get out of the room. Once he was outside, he saw that I was being treated by EMS. He walked directly to the ambulance and we were both transported to Cooper Medical Center. Just like me, Craft was physically, tactically and mentally prepared for an incident such as this and has not had any issues with anything that took place.