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Monday, March 15, 2010

People Trapped On The Roof

Just after two in the morning the tones jolted me awake, again. The last time had been for a crack addict that had been beat by "her man" but insisted that she had had a seizure and fallen into a dumpster, smashing her face. Unfortunately she was alert, oriented and being a pain in the butt. She finally refused medical treatment and allowed us to go back to bed. So when the tones went off again, my first conscious thought was, "It had better not be Michelle again." My dispatcher quickly allayed my fears. We were responding into a neighboring city for a water heater that had exploded with 6 people trapped on the roof. Fun!
My next thought was of a Mythbusters episode on exploding water heaters.

If they truly blew like that, what roof were the people on? How were they even alive. There had to be some misinformation somewhere. As we checked in with the dispatch center for our neighboring city they gave us some better information. We were responding for a two story apartment building with the second floor well involved.

As we pulled up we could see flames shooting out the windows on the A and D sides of the building (the A side is the front, B side is on the left of that, C side is in the rear and D is to the right of the front). We were immediately assigned as ventilation group. While I have been through extensive training in vertical ventilation, and practiced many times, I have never had the opportunity to do it until now. Saying that I was very excited would be an understatement.

We grabbed the 35 foot extension ladder and set it up on the A/B corner. It was literally the only place we could set it up. There was only a couple of feet separating the burning building and the apartment building next to it. The ladder was very steep. I masked up and started my climb. I had only gone a couple of rungs when my SCBA bottle hit the eaves of the buildings next door. As I contorted myself around the obstacle I kept thinking how great my job is.

Once on the roof my captain led me sounding the roof with a rubbish hook. He used the hood to direct me where he wanted a hole cut but as he did so the hook went right through the roof. He proceeded to make a 4' by 4' hole just by smashing in the roof. At this point I grew a little disappointed figuring that the roof wasn't stable enough for us to do much and that we would be heading back down the ladder. Not so much. My captain led us up the ridge line to the middle of the roof. There he told me where he wanted the hole. I cut a beautiful 4' square. Smoke was coming out of the kerf cut as I went along. As soon as I was done I stepped aside. My captain and my engineer louvered the cut on a rafter and then punched through the ceiling. As soon as the billowing smoke started to clear we could see the flashlights from the interior attack team.

Later on we talked to the hose team and they said that the hole was perfect. Within seconds there was visibility in the room and they were able to make short work of the fire. Coordinated teamwork does wonders.

Here's a glimpse at what vertical ventilation is like.


Brendan said...

You failed to mention to us that you had not cut a hole before! "First time" means something around here. I expect you to bringing something with you when you return after your speedy recovery.

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

But of course. I wouldn't welsh on something like that! said...

oh my goodness, was just over at Katie's website and I am so sorry you have not been well!

I hope you feel better soon!!!!

( I have not been on the computer much or I would have wished you well sooner!)

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