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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Full Response, Structure Fire

At 0530, the tones went off, "Full response, structure fire." Such a fun phrase (at least to firefighters). Even better, it was in my district! I quickly put on my socks and shook the sleep out of my head, then headed for the apparatus bay. I quickly donned my turnouts and jumped into the seat with the SCBA. At this point I have a chance to relax, double check all my gear, and enjoy the ride.

I knew that the house in question was close so I as a little disappointed not to hear a smoke showing call from my captain. I figured it was just another false alarm.


http://www.firedispatch.com/pr/incidentphoto.jpg
This is what I wanted to see.

As we pulled up there was nothing showing (no fire or smoke). Just a couple of cops (really wishing they were firefighters) pointing to the house. As we dismounted we were met by the residents. I heard them explain to my captain that the fire was in the bedroom on the second floor. Before my captain could tell me I was on the way to the engine to grab a line. I pulled 200 feet of 1 3/4 line to the front door. There my captain and I masked up and called for water. As we opened the door we realized a couple of things. First, that it was partially blocked and the door wouldn't open all the way. That could be a problem if we had to make a hasty exit. Second, we noticed that the entire house was charged with smoke. Visibility was down to nothing.

My captain decided to go in first with the TIC to see if he could quickly find the fire. Once inside we could tell that the place was completely covered in trash. As we ascended the stairs we had to be very careful of our footing. My captain soon realized that the TIC wasn't working. Everything was coming up the same temperature. While we weren't able to see anything we were able to feel heat. It was warm but nothing like a good roaring structure fire. We also couldn't hear it. If you don't know, fires make a lot of noise. Next time you're near a wood fire, listen to it. Once my captain realized that the TIC wasn't going to be of much help he let me go first. I moved along the right wall of the stairs. As I got to the top of the stairs I found that there was some obstacle about the size of a small file cabinet blocking the top. I climbed over it and continued my search. I found what I thought was a closest on the right at the top of the stairs. Through the doorway straight ahead I was able to feel tile flooring, a bath tub and a sink. I kept going along the same wall (a right hand search). As I entered the bedroom I tripped on a step ladder. I ended up picking it up and tossing it across the room. It was warmer in this room but there was still no fire. I turned off my light in hopes of seeing the orange glow of the fire but nothing.

http://www.ruralridgevfd.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/FIRE1.jpg
Fire crew doing vertical ventilation.

Finally a crew outside went around and busted out the window in the bedroom. The smoke poured out and fresh air came rushing in. This cleared things up and gave the fire the precious oxygen it needed to flare up. I was almost standing on top of it. I moved a couple of small book cases and asked for more hose. My captain gave me a couple more feet of hose and I extinguished the small fire. At this point my captain was low on air so we headed out to switch our bottles.

After the smoke had cleared I was amazed at what I found inside. Picture everything in the photo below spread around in the living room.


















I couldn't see the floor except on the stairs where we had cleared the area. The front door was partially blocked with trash. The upstairs closet that I had found actually was open. The door from the closet was blocking the doorway to the second bedroom and had 3 feet of debris in front of it. It's no wonder it felt like a wall. The door was wedged open with garbage. We had to use several shovels and rubbish hooks just to clear the area and start on overhaul. Lots of stuff went out the second story window. I'm glad that the windows didn't crack because of the heat or else we would have had a hard time stopping it from taking the neighbors house as it went up in smoke. I found out later that my captain had moved whatever was blocking the top of the stairs. While he was doing this he slid down the stairs on his butt on all the trash. Luckily he was uninjured. The frustrating thing is that people that live like this have no idea that they are literally putting my life at risk.

1 comment:

maxwelton's braes are bonny said...

One would hope a referral to social services may be in order to help these folks with their 'problem'. Hopefully no kids were there. What a horrid way to live.

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