Darien-Woodridge Fire Protection District Chief Robert J.Tinucci Personnel: 37 full-time firefighters, 50 part-time firefighters Apparatus: three engines, one ladder truck, three ambulances, one heavyrescue, one tanker, one brush truck Population: 29,000 Area: 15 square miles A...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
Darien-Woodridge Fire Protection District
Chief Robert J.Tinucci
Personnel: 37 full-time firefighters, 50 part-time firefighters
Apparatus: three engines, one ladder truck, three ambulances, one heavyrescue, one tanker, one brush truck
Area: 15 square miles
A long holiday weekend was drawing to a close on Nov. 30, 1996, when the peace and serenity of a quiet residential neighborhood in suburban Downers Grove, IL, was shattered by a natural gas explosion. The blast killed two residents, severely injured another and leveled the house they were occupying. Additionally, many more houses in the neighborhood were damaged, five of them to the point that they were left uninhabitable.
The community was dealt a traumatic blow while the local fire departments were left to deal with a situation that stretched their capabilities to an unprecedented level.
The First Minutes
Midnight was in sight for the communications operators at the Downers Grove Operations Center when the first of the 911 calls began streaming in. Seventy-seven 911 calls flooded the Fire Alarm Office in the first few moments following the blast, marking the start of a long and exhausting night for hundreds of area residents and emergency crews.
Photo courtesy of Darien-Woodridge Fire Protection District
The home in which the blast occurred was reduced to burning rubble and adjacent homes showed signs of heavy structural damage.
Just as the large volume of calls was making the Fire Alarm Office aware of the magnitude of the incident, another issue began to confuse normal response procedures. Although the area of the explosion was within the boundaries of the Village of Downers Grove, fire protection was provided by the Darien-Woodridge Fire Protection District, whose Station 2 is located only a few blocks away from the incident scene. As it would turn out, this confusion would actually be a blessing in disguise.
The Downers Grove Operation Center dispatched a full-still alarm complement to the area. Included in this response was Darien-Wood-ridge's Station 2 engine company as part of an automatic-aid agreement designed to boost responses on the part of several area agencies. When the company was dispatched, Darien-Woodridge Battalion Chief Wayne Messenger, quartered a few miles south-east of the incident, recognized the address being given, contacted his own Fire Alarm Office and ordered a full-still response for Darien-Wood-ridge as well. This dual response resulted in a larger initial response than would otherwise have been sent. At 11:42 P.M., initial companies being dispatched included four engine companies, two truck companies, one heavy rescue squad, three advanced life support (ALS) ambulances and three chief officers.
Two Downers Grove police officers, on patrol in the area, were the first to arrive at 11:45. They were met by a scene of total destruction and mass confusion. Many local residents were wandering the site, dazed and injured. The home in which the blast had occurred had been reduced to burning rubble and adjacent homes showed signs of heavy structural damage as well as imminent exposure to the ensuing fire.
Additional help was forthcoming in the form of off-duty Darien-Woodridge Firefighter Terry Ticknor, who lived less than a block away from the explosion. After the blast, his first actions were to check on the well-being of his family, instruct his wife to call 911, then grab his turnout gear from the trunk of his car and start toward the scene. He quickly conferred with the officers already at the scene, as well as a neighbor from next door to the blast. The neighbor told Ticknor a survivor was still in the rubble and had been talking to him.