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A U.S. Forest Service firefighter stands atop his engine to monitor conditions as his fellow firefighters operate during a firestorm in California. An early and busy wildland fire season is already putting emergency resources to the test.
Photo credit: Photo by Mike Meadows
As we were deciding which incidents to cover in Firehouse®, the news in recent weeks has been chock-full of fires, natural disasters, explosions, building collapses and weather-related emergencies. With continued advances in technology, incidents you would have read about hours, days and months later can now be viewed on Firehouse.com as they happen on a variety of devices. One day, I spoke with a deputy fire chief in Moore, OK, who told me that several of his members would call me that evening to discuss the deadly tornado that ripped through their community. A few hours later, a tornado was moving into the El Reno and Oklahoma City area, not far from Moore. Once I saw the extensive live coverage on CNN, I knew the members from Moore were going to be busy that night and would have no time to talk.
The terrible bomb explosions during the Boston Marathon made international news. Right after that, I was traveling across the country when the West, TX, fertilizer plant explosion occurred, killing numerous firefighters. The EF5 tornado in Moore killed 23 people and injured 377 others. It measured 1.3 miles wide and stayed on the ground for 39 minutes, covering over a 17-mile path of destruction with winds of 210 mph. In Baltimore County, MD, a freight train-truck accident resulted in a derailment and explosion. A fire in a restaurant killed four Houston, TX, firefighters and injured several others. A fire in China killed 119 workers in a poultry-processing plant where it was reported that many exit doors were blocked or locked. Another EF5 tornado, with winds of 295 mph, was the widest tornado on record at 2.6 miles wide and went through El Reno, killing 19 people, including several storm chasers.
Speaking of storm chasers, Gene Blevins, a news photographer from Los Angeles, CA, was in Oklahoma chasing a tornado about one hour south of Oklahoma City when he learned of the tornado striking Moore. He headed north and arrived on the scene about 45 minutes after the storm passed through the area. As I spoke with some of the firefighters who responded, it turns out Blevins photographed several of the civilians being rescued from a heart clinic by those same firefighters. See page 60.
In this issue we provide photo coverage of recent wildland fires that struck California. Not known as occurring within the “fire season,” these early fires in some areas that had not burned since 1929 have put fire resources through several early battles. As one of our photographers discussed the recent wildland activity, firefighters throughout the West will certainly be put to the test the rest of the year as fire conditions become more extreme with the warmer summer and fall months approaching and ground fuels becoming drier. See page 84.
Part two of the 2012 National Run Survey also appears in this issue. In this installment we present the total calls for each fire department plus the busiest engine and ladder company from each city. This year, San Francisco, CA, Engine 1, which recently moved to a new station, responded to even more calls than last year ending up with 9,661 runs in 2012. The busiest ladder is from Denver, CO, where Truck 4 responded to 6,215 runs. You can find the complete run data beginning on page 64.
HARVEY EISNER is editor-in-chief of Firehouse® and a retired assistant chief of the Tenafly, NJ, Fire Department, which he joined in 1975 and served as chief of department for 12 years. He also was a firefighter in the Stillwater, OK, Fire Department for three years while attending Oklahoma State University. Eisner is an honorary assistant chief of the FDNY and program director for the Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World conferences. He has covered many major fires and disasters and interviewed numerous fire service leaders for Firehouse®. He edited the books WTC – In Their Own Words and Hot Shots, published by Cygnus.