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As we have been reporting over the past two months, on Jan. 18, 2014, the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department (M-LFD) of Long Island, NY, was alerted to respond to a reported fire in a dwelling. What happened on that call teaches a lesson for all of us. Our sincere thanks to M-LFD Chief of Department Christopher Pisani and Deputy Chiefs Kirk Candan, Michael Farrone, Scott Garrigan and Mark Kiess for their assistance in sharing this report. Additional thanks to Lieutenant Sean Dolan, Firefighter John McCann, Lieutenant Lee Genser, EMT Tracey Dolan, Fire Commissioners Donald T. O’Brien, Andrew J. DeMartin and Brian J. Morris as well as all the members and mutual aid departments who responded to this incident.
The following account is by M-LFD Deputy Chief Mike Farrone:
I was the last chief officer to arrive on the scene. Chief Pisani was setting up the command post and Chiefs Candan and Kiess were already inside the fire building. The smoke outside was so light that I remember asking Chief Pisani which house was on fire.
I entered the first floor of the home to help coordinate companies operating and was met by light smoke and no heat. The smoke was so light I did not even go on my SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus). Command ordered us to open windows, but not to do any unnecessary damage to the home to relieve the minor smoke condition. While members were opening a French door on the C side, I observed fire coming from a floor heat vent. I ordered, by radio, the second hoseline to extinguish this fire so it would not spread to curtains nearby.
A primary search was conducted on both the first and second floors. These were both negative. Ex-Captain John McCann was conducting a search on the first floor in a bedroom and bathroom near the D side of the home. He alerted me that the floor in a closet had been burned through. The smoke and heat on the first floor had become worse and I donned my air mask.
Using a thermal imager from the doorway of the bedroom I was able to guide Ex-Captain McCann around the bedroom during his search. There were a few hot spots on the floor and he stated the floor was soft in some areas. He exited the room and we spoke about the fire traveling in the basement. He also noted the worsening fire conditions on the first floor. At this point, conditions were getting worse as we opened windows.
I had members open up an area of the wall near the garage on the B side and smoke was pushing from the openings we had just made. What we saw did not add up to the reports from the basement that they had extinguished the fire. Fortunately, Chief Candan had left the building to speak to command and when he reentered he observed that the first-floor entry area was now tilted. He made an urgent transmission to command of his finding and Chief Pisani ordered the house evacuated of all members. I left the dwelling last to make sure all members had left safely. All members were accounted for and a defensive operation was initiated.
This fire was a real eye opener; we could have lost almost 20 members who were operating inside the home. The members had to evacuate from the basement so quickly that they had to leave the first-due attack line in the basement. That is how fast conditions went bad. This all occurred within 10 minutes of my arrival. I am still amazed at how fast this fire went from a “nothing fire” to getting away from us and losing the entire house. Thankfully, all of our members are safe.
The following account is from M-LFD Lieutenant Sean Dolan:
Upon my arrival, there was “nothing showing” from the large, 2½-story, 5,000-plus-square-foot private dwelling. I met with Deputy Chief Kiess at the top of the basement stairs, where he reported something was on fire in the basement toward the front of the house. Kneeling at the top of the basement stairs, I donned my mask, preparing to enter the basement. Only a little smoke was venting out of the doorway to the basement, yet heavy smoke was pushing from around the doorframe to the basement, indicating we had a “structural fire” as opposed to a “contents fire” (important information at any fire, but even more so when you are dealing with wood-truss construction).