There's no such thing as a routine fire

Tragedy struck the Chicago Fire Department last Wednesday when a collapsing truss roof on a vacant south side building killed two firefighters and injured 17 more.
 
By all accounts, it was a routine fire. Two lines were led out on a fire that appeared to be contained in the rear office area of a building known to be frequented by vagrants and homeless people. Because a rear door was open on the boarded up structure, a search for victims was initiated as the lines hit the fire. Extra companies were called as a precaution when a frozen hydrant was encountered, but, as far as fires go, it was quite ordinary.
 
Except that there is no such thing as a routine fire. We forget this from time to time, only to be reminded, as we were last Wednesday, that in our line of work, if something could go wrong, it sometimes does. But, as happens most of the time, when something could go wrong, and doesn’t, and each time, we tend to forget again that tragedy can strike at any time.
 
From all reports, the companies on the scene did all the right things and made all the right moves. Perhaps, if they knew that the roof had been weakened from years of neglect by an owner who was ordered by city building inspectors to repair it in 2007 they may not have made entry. They did what they were trained to do-their job.
 
Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said on the scene, that firefighters always check abandoned buildings because it's common for people to take shelter there during the winter.

"We can go into any vacant building somewhere and find someone who broke into a place to seek refuge to get out of the cold," he said. "That's why we do what we do."
 
The troops were simply doing their job, the same job all of us do. Without warning, the roof came down, burying the group in the debris. It could have been any of us in there.
 
A little bit of all of us died with those two Chicago firefighters last Wednesday. In their memory, let’s make ourselves a promise to never forget that there is no such thing as a routine fire.

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