Two large early-season wildfires proved worrisome to West Coast firefighters.
Photo credit: Photo by Keith D. Cullom
The West, TX, fertilizer plant explosion and the exploding of two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon were two recent major incidents. In California, two large wildfires occurring so early in the year caused great concern to West Coast firefighters.
Twenty to 30 firefighters were on the scene of the Boston incident immediately. Many spectators were severely injured and numerous medical personnel were on hand. The injured were removed in about 15 minutes. Following the initial blasts, the Boston Fire Department was busy responding to several dozen reports of suspicious packages.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), firefighters and other emergency responders were operating at a fire at the West Fertilizer Co. in Texas. Initial reports indicate that as the situation on the fireground worsened, the fire chief ordered all personnel to evacuate the property. Shortly thereafter, a massive explosion occurred. Many people were injured or killed, including five firefighters from the West Volunteer Fire Department. Due to the timely efforts of first responders and other volunteers working in the face of pending catastrophe to evacuate nearby occupancies, many other lives were saved. Several other emergency responders were also killed in the incident. The investigation into the cause of the fire, explosion and resulting fatalities continues by local, state and federal authorities.
Fire photographer Keith Cullom, on the scene in California, said forecasts from the National Weather Service indicated temperatures into the upper 90s, humidity down to single digits (3%) and strong Santa Ana winds – and that was just for the first day of May.
As all of Southern California had been experiencing a drought, with rainfall inches below normal, fire agencies across the state were racing to put staffing and resources into place for a fire season that is months ahead of the normal calendar. More than 2,000 firefighters from 247 engines and other resources protected more than 4,000 structures, which included California State University-Channel Islands (CSUCI) and Point Mugu Naval Air Station, in addition to homes in several communities. Firefighters from as far away as Nevada contained the fire after it burned 24,250 acres, but destroyed only 10 out-buildings, and caused limited damage to 12 other buildings and minor injuries to eight firefighters. Firefighters throughout the western states will be put to the test throughout the rest of the year as fire conditions will certainly become more extreme as the warmer summer and fall months approach and ground fuels become drier.
On April 24, an eight-story commercial building collapsed in Savar, a suburb of the capital of Bangladesh. At least 1,127 people were killed and about 2,500 people injured. As of mid-May, many people were still missing. At least 2,500 people were rescued from the building alive. Seventeen days after the collapse, a woman was pulled alive from the wreckage. It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest structural failure in modern human history, excluding the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Shortly, we will be in Baltimore to host Firehouse Expo. New classes will cover the latest fire service issues. Topics include “Community-Based Paramedics,” “ISO and the New Rating Schedule,” “What Chiefs Need to Know to Be Successful,” “Making Yourself Hard to Kill,” “The Effects of Hurricane Sandy” and classes on engine and truck company operations, leadership, strategy and tactics, EMS and much more. See FirehouseExpo.com for the latest.