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This concludes a multi-part account of a close call experienced by the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department (M-LFD) of Long Island, NY, at a house fire on Jan. 18, 2014. Thanks to M-LFD Chief of Department Christopher Pisani and Deputy Chiefs Kirk Candan, Michael Farrone, Scott Garrigan and Mark Kiess for their assistance. Also, 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.
This month’s column focuses on lessons learned and reinforced and on observations by responders. The comments by M-LFD officers and firefighters are in boldface, with Chief Goldfeder’s comments following in italics.
M-LFD – Basement fires are always tough. Conditions such as limited access, entering through the thermal layering, non-exposed fire conditions all prove to make these some of the toughest fires to fight. It is important for officers/acting officers to limit the number of members committed to the basement, especially in the initial stages of an operation. By limiting the members in the basement to the first-due engine at this fire, it made it easy to quickly exit the basement and the structure when the urgent message was transmitted.
Chief Goldfeder – Good coordination, lines being stretched and accountability by M-LFD allowed for every member to survive this fire. This fire is also a great lesson for all of us that basement fires can turn ugly quickly. When the occupants are accounted for, firefighting in “modern” lightweight wood truss dwellings such as this can or may have to be a “switch strategy” quickly. While the initial personnel went in to investigate, it got ugly quickly and evacuation must be the priority, especially when it is known that the occupants are out.
Having a member at the bottom of the stairs proved extremely helpful in this basement fire. This member was able to limit who came into the basement, as well as draw members who became disoriented back to the stairs to speed up the ability to get out of the basement. The large floor plan of the basement as well as the many obstacles within caused many members to become disoriented and turned around while trying to exit.
This “control” firefighter proved to be of value when the members were ordered out in coordinating accountability – and a means to get out. The use of a senior member ensured that the member would stay and do that job, versus a less-disciplined and perhaps less-senior member who may have freelanced. When staffing allows it, this position, be it filled by an officer or firefighter, can be of great value in helping coordinate operations and accountability.
Radio discipline is a must at any fire. When an Urgent is transmitted, all non-essential transmissions must cease. It is also important to ensure that your acknowledgement of the message was heard by the necessary people.
Remember the term “DIMWIT”: “Does It Matter What I’m Transmitting?” If not, stay off the radio. One moment of transmission could cover another member’s only chance for reporting a Mayday. On the other hand, when you see a problem or conditions changing, let command know.
The first-due engine picked up a bad hydrant. Information must be transmitted to the incident commander so a water source can be found or problem be fixed.
A dead hydrant or other problem with something command is expecting is a good time for a radio transmission!
Each engine should always find a hydrant. Don’t park an engine on the side of the road. Two lines maximum off of each engine (you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket) in case an engine has a problem.