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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Structure Fire

At just after 0300 the lights turned on and the tones sounded. It was a full first alarm response for a structure fire. We quickly donned our turnouts and jumped into the engine. First, I grabbed the TIC and handed it up to my captain. I then slid into my seat mounted BA, pulled my shoulder straps tight and put on my headset. After letting my engineer know that I was ready to go I finished putting on my BA by fastening my waist strap. After that was done there was time to sit back, listen to the siren, watch the red and white lights reflect off the houses and think this is the greatest job.

We were the second unit to arrive on scene. It was a fire that had originated in the fire place but had somehow started a fire in the chimney. While the first in crew started their initial attack on the chimney from the back yard we were instructed to check for extension (to see if the fire had spread to other parts of the house, on the inside of walls, up to the attic, etc.). I grabbed an attic ladder (10 foot folding ladder that's used to make access scuttle holes). We found that the interior of the house was smokey but not that bad. Once upstairs in the bedroom that was against the chimney my captain used the TIC and determined that the there was a slight chance that it had spread up near the roof line. After checking out the attic space we determined that there was a large beam that was being heated and that was what was showing up on the TIC. We were able to determine that there was no extension into the house without tearing it apart. The chimney was not so lucky. the initial attack crew had to take most of the facade off to fully extinguish the fire.
http://www.riograndefire.com/chimney%20fire%20g.c.1.24.04%20005.jpg

After the fire was out my captain and I saw the owner of the house. He was approximately 50 years old and was coughing a lot and having an obviously difficult time breathing. I asked the owner if it would be OK to medically check him out. He told me that when he had first noticed the fire there was a six inch hole in the facade of the chimney through which he could see the fire. He decided to grab the garden hose and put it out himself, while wearing PJ bottoms and no shirt. When he introduced water to the fire it quickly turned to steam. When water is converted to steam it expands at more than 1700%. This forced super heated gases and smoke right out that hole and into the would be firefighter's face, causing him some respiratory problems. I placed my patient on some oxygen and did a thorough assessment. We even have a machine that will check how much carbon monoxide is in the blood stream. After about 10 minutes of oxygen my patient felt much better and was no longer hacking up a lung. I told him that he better leave the firefighting to the pros. He told me that's exactly what his wife had said. Once he signed out AMA we were cleared to go back to our station.

We arrived at that awkward time where you don't want to be up but there's not really time to go back to sleep either. I chose to lay on my bed and relax. What a great job.
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