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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Railroad Fire

While working an overtime shift at the station one district over from mine we were toned out for an apartment fire. The address given placed it just about equidistant from all three stations in the city so the race was on to see who would get there first.

The first in apparatus gave a report on conditions as they came on scene. They reported that there was a small grass fire next to the railroad tracks and that the best access would be from the bridge we were about to cross. We pulled up to the edge of the bridge where we could see small wisps of smoke and went nose to nose with the engine from the other district in town.

I jumped off the engine and looked over the railing. There was a steep hill with a half acre of grass burning. "Great," I thought to myself, "wildland firefighting in turnouts." I grabbed our bumper line and started stretching it out toward the end of the railing so I wouldn't have to hop it. I called for water (so the engineer knows when to charge the hose line) even before I was totally ready knowing that I'd still have 15 seconds or so before the water got to me.

Fifteen seconds came, and went. Then 30. Then a minute (this may not seem like a long time but standing on the edge of an uncontrolled fire, even a small one, it seems like an eternity). Something wasn't right but I was now below the level of the bridge so I couldn't see what was going on. Finally I got water. Turns out another hose line had been stretched out and accidentally charged over top of mine preventing the water from getting to me.

Now armed with water I charged/repelled down the hill extinguishing the fire as I went. The fire was out in under a minute. At least on our side of the double tracks. Apparently there was another spot fire just on the other side of the railroad, about 75 feet away. Up on the bridge the guys shut off the water and added in a 100 foot section of hose. Then, with look outs posted in each direction, I drug the hose line across and put out the smoldering fire.

While I don't normally advocate leaving anything on train tracks I think it was the right thing to do in this situation. Once both spots of blackened earth had been turned into dark mud we picked up our hose and headed back to the station.

At the station we replaced the hose that we used, since it was really dirty. We then went out back and washed the hose and then strung it up on the hose rack to dry. The next day the hose was taken down and rolled up, ready for use.

The cause of the fire was undetermined.
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