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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fire....Again

After the last fire and following investigation we got back to the station a little before 11 at night. We then had to clean up the rig, our dishes from dinner and ourselves. It was after midnight before we were all done.


Time for bed.

The lights clicked on. The structure tones go off. I glanced at my watch as I headed for the apparatus bay. It's just after 0230. I couldn't help but think that this was going to be another false alarm. Then the address hit me. 1234 5th Street. Wasn't that where our last fire was at....a few hours ago? I asked my captain to make sure I was remembering things correctly. Sure enough.

While on our way to the house dispatch told us that smoke and flames were seen coming from the rear of the residence. We all thought SH**! It rekindled. A fire that rekindles is kind of like a slap in the face. It means that we didn't do our job right the first time.

As we turned the corner and headed in the direction of the house we could see the column of black smoke in the dark sky blotting out the stars. We were going to work again.

We were soon parked in the exact same spot we were earlier in the shift. Now there were flames shooting up through the skylights that had been broken to ventilate the last fire. This time time the ventilation just served to feed the beast.

Knowing what the layout and condition of a house is prior to a fire is amazing. We knew that our best chance of fighting this fire and keeping it small was to pull the cross lay to the rear of the residence and to attack the fire from the sliding glass door there. There was too much junk all over the house to be able to make a fast attack through the hallways.

I grabbed the hose and started to stretch it out toward the back. While moving along the side I noticed one of the smaller bedroom windows was completely black and there was charged smoke pouring out of a small hole in the glass.

In the back yard I stopped about 5 feet short and off to one side of what was a sliding glass door and masked up. Once I was relatively safe in my protective gear I called for water. I moved up to the doorway. There I could see that the entire master bedroom was engulfed. I had flames rolling out over my head and into the night air. I opened the bail on the nozzle and started pouring in 150 gallons of water a minute. Within a minute or two I was able to darken down the fire in that room. While I was doing this I noticed the next bedroom over flashed.

It was about this time when the most dangerous part of the fire happened. One of the firefighters from another crew came rapidly around the rear corner of the house only to realize that the small space between the structure and the pool was occupied by several firefighters. In order to keep from bowling us all over he made a quick step to his left. He immediately realized his mistake and started swimming before he hit the water. Hearing the splash and knowing what must have happened caused quite the adrenaline rush. How long can you swim in 70 pounds of gear? Luckily we were able to drag him to the side where he yelled at us to move back so he could get out. Once he was safe a safety message went out over the radio about the pool and we continued suppression efforts.

While this was going on my captain had another crew stretch a line to the front door with instructions to let us know when they were about to enter. We didn't want to be flowing water into the room that they were entering.

Once the master bedroom was knocked down a bit I moved over to the side of the house where the smoke had been puffing out of the window. By that point there was no window at all and the smoke and turned into flames. I got in there with my nozzle and started flowing water again. About 30 seconds later I heard on my radio that the engine crew at the front door was ready to go. Knowing that they would get to that bedroom first I moved back to my original position the keep the fire in the back of the house in check. I few minutes later the active fire was out.

A little while later we were the only ones there, once again with the investigator. While walking through the house we noticed that there was a little more smoke than there should have been in the back of the house. We looked around but could find the smouldering material so we (my captain) decided that we (me) had to go up in the attic and look around. Once the ladder was in place I scurried up. Being careful to walk only on the rafters I noticed one 2x4 was still smoking. I asked my captain to grab the hose so I cold douse it. While my captain was fetching the line the small glowing embers erupted into a thin two foot tall flame. It was really cool to watch. But it only lasted about a minute until I got some water.

Finally, around 0730, we made it back to the station. That day I got to go back to work with my regular crew. Coincidentally, my engineer was the one that went 'swimming.' For the rest of the day he received phone calls asking for Aquaman or asking if we found Nemo or one time, there was simply the theme song to Flipper playing. I love the fire service.
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