Submit Your Close Call / Near Miss
Friday, October 8, 2010
We were at a single family house fire in March 2010 when a few firefighters came very close to being electrocuted by a high voltage wire. The wire deattached from the house due to direct flame impingement and when it landed in the driveway it wasn't immediately marked off with cones. More than one firefighter stepped over this live wire while engaged in suppression operations. After at least 5 to 8 minutes the area around the wire was marked off with cones and a Safety Officer was stationed nearby.
LESSONS LEARNED: Keep apparatus away from overhanging electrical wires. Maintain situational awareness for new developments during an operation.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
On September 29, 2010 we were alerted bringing in several stations. Upon arrival of first engine smoke was showing from the front of store. My unit was second in and advised to make entry in the rear myself and two others forced entry and encountered heavy smoke and a lot of heat. Once entry was made it was about a minute after I saw fire come from a corner in the room. Before I could turn to put water on the fire the room had flashed over and had knocked the two behind me out of the building which was about 6 feet. After being dazed I came out and no injuries occurred.
LESSONS LEARNED: Read smoke. We all need to slow down take a breath and check your surroundings
Monday, October 4, 2010
It was a very hot evening and several neighboring departments were dispatched to a structure fire involving a single family dwelling. Due to the heat of the day and the intensity of the fire, mutual aid was requested from our department. We sent an engine and a quint to the scene. I was on the quint and our unit was the first from our department to arrive on the scene. Upon arrival, our crew went to Side A of the structure to meet with the IC. We were advised by the IC that the fire originated in the basement due to an accidental flash fire from acetone material used to treat the floor (approximately 3 gallons). We were advised that the basement was difficult to access for attack and that they believed the staircase was burned away or compromised. My deputy chief, [name omitted] and I suggested using a cellar nozzle in the front foyer of the structure to try and get a knockdown on the fire. The IC agreed with our tactic and we proceeded to get our equipment together for the attack. Upon approaching the front door, there were three firefighters inside the structure in the foyer area. I stepped inside and told them to back out due to our operation. They removed their equipment and our crew prepared for entry. Our crew consisted of five personnel; my deputy chief who has over 30 years experience, myself with 26 years of experience, firefighter [name omitted] with approximately two and one half years of experience, firefighter [name omitted] with approximately six years of experience, and recruit [name omitted] with right at one year of experience. Due to the nature of the operation and the need to act quickly, the deputy chief and I decided that one of us would lead the attack in to get the job done quickly. My deputy chief stated, "You take the lead....I've got your back!" I made sure my crew was ready to enter, sounded the floor for stability, and then crossed over the threshold entering the structure. When I was approximately five feet inside the structure, I felt the floor start to give way. I turned toward the front door to try and bail out and at the same time yelled at others to get out, when the floor system collapsed. This was no ordinary collapse. More than two thirds of the first floor collapsed simultaneously. The living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and foyer all fell at once. When the collapse happened, I was the only one that fell into the basement, right into the heart of the fire. All I could see around me were flames. I could not see the hole that I had fallen through. I could not see my fellow firefighters above me. All I could see was fire. I began to try and find something to use to climb back up with. Since I did not know what type of collapse had occurred, I just started clawing away at anything as I was trying to climb. During this time, my legs were burning. Fire was burning up between my boots and my bunker pants. The pain was intense. My deputy chief was trying to put a line on me for protection, but the fire was extremely intense. He was lying on the porch with fire shooting out over his head. He stated he could occasionally see the top of my helmet and the reflective stripes on my coat sleeves. By a bit of luck, a roof ladder was laying in the front yard that had just been taken off the roof after completing a ventilation operation. My deputy chief directed the crew to get the ladder into the hole for my escape. By this time, I was burned pretty well on my legs and struggling with exhaustion and the intense heat. I was screaming both from pain and due to fear. I could hear screaming coming from above, but was unable to make out the majority of it. I finally heard the word "ladder" and then felt something across my back. Once they got the ladder in to the basement, I had to get around to it. I still could not see anything but fire, so this was all by feel. As I started up the ladder, I got two rungs up, reached for the third rung, and lost my grip and fell back into the basement landing on my back. I was so exhausted that I started making my peace with God that this was where I was going to die. My wife and my three boys [names omitted] were at the foreground of my thoughts and I was thinking about never getting to see them again. Somehow, by the grace of God, I found the strength to get up again and start climbing the ladder once more. I got to the fourth rung and felt hands grabbing hold of me helping to pull me out. Upon exiting the fire, I was told by my deputy chief that they had to extinguish me in the front yard. EMS personnel could not touch me as my equipment was too hot, so fire gloves had to be used to remove it. I was hosed down to assist with the cooling process, placed on a stretcher, and transported to the hospital [name and location omitted] where I was admitted and treated for second and third degree burns to both of my legs and minor burns to my left hand and wrist. A lot of things fell into place just right that night. There was no time to call for a RIT team. I never had the chance or the forethought to call MAYDAY. I knew I was burning alive and had to do whatever I could to get out. My level of training gave me enough forethought to not leave the area so that my crew knew where to find me. It also enabled me to react quickly and try options that had been discussed and practiced in training many times. I was panicked, but did not panic to the extent of removing my SCBA, though I was inhaling so hard my mask was touching my nose. My deputy chief kept his composure and facilitated immediate actions by the rest of our crew to enable my rescue. The ladder that had just been removed from the roof was in the right location for use. My crew did not give up on me and I did not give up on them. I owe them my life. Since this incident, I have had to undergo skin graft surgery with the possibility of having to have a second surgery in the near future. I am off work from both of my jobs with an undetermined date of return. This incident has played hard on my mental status as well as physically. Nothing can really prepare you for the emotional roller coaster that you ride after a situation like this. I have spoken with my crew several times since that day and we all experience many of the same emotions, but also many different ones. They will hopefully never know what it was like down in that inferno, but they do know how it feels to watch it happen to one of your own.
LESSONS LEARNED: TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN! Train like you have never trained before. We followed everything by the book, no hot dogging, no free-lancing, nothing like that, and things still went wrong. We have gone over the scenario again and again in our heads and agreed that there is nothing we should have or would have done differently. Accidents happen, but you have to train hard and take the job seriously, whether you are a paid or volunteer firefighter, if you want to survive. Most of us go through our career in the fire service without injury, but it can happen at any time and at any fire. BE PREPARED! Take your training seriously. The more you train, the better prepared you will be. Nothing can really completely prepare you for this type of event, but the more you practice what to do, the more likely you are to react in the proper way. RIT teams are an essential part of the fireground operation; however, they are not the only resource. Had I had to wait on the RIT team for rescue, I would not be typing this today. Rely on your own skills and training to try and get out. Don't give up and just wait. Work together as a crew and keep track of all your personnel. Make sure everyone understands the operation, knows their responsibilities, and has the proper equipment to get the job done. Remember Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, not only immediately following the incident, but for weeks or months after an incident of this magnitude. Every time you talk, more emotions will surface. Don't try and play the Macho Firefighters and make everyone think that things like this don't bother you. It will eat you up inside. I have had a very hard time with many issues and talking with my fellow firefighters and especially my crew has helped not only me, but them as well. Keep your protective equipment in top notch condition and in date. My equipment saved my life that day. More consideration should have been given to the duration and intensity of the fire prior to our entry. Even though it appeared stable, obviously it was not. No warning signs were present. Know the crew you will be entering a fire with. Understand their level of training and confidence. Remember, you may have to get them out of a bad situation, but they may also have to get you out of a bad situation. You must work cohesively as a unit, be able to read each other, and know what is expected of each other. This is hard in many combination and/or volunteer departments, but that again goes back to training.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
On Sept. 11, 2010 we had a working modular house fire. While advancing attack line on heavy involved rooms, just after knock down, water was lost as fire re-grew, a backup line had to be advanced to cover the crew and extinguish fire. Crew had to retreat into back rooms to wait for line. Pump operator never blew airhorn.
LESSONS LEARNED: The nozzle man went to engine after fire was brought back under control and opened the correct valve for the pump operator to pull draft from rear intake out of porta tank.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Firefighters had placed a ladder directly over the room of origin. Window failed at the point where the ladder was located and the room flashed over. A fire fighter was at the tip of the ladder attempting to deploy a roof ladder when the window failed. The fire fighter was engulfed in flames for a time and was forced to retreat through the flames to the ground.
LESSONS LEARNED: Ladder placement is critical to safe roof operations. Had the initial ladder been placed properly- the flashover would not have put the fire fighter in jeopardy. Listen to the company officer- the company officer had a different plan than the fire fighters- they engaged in independent action.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
At 2454 hrs on September 6, 2010 the Matteson Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire in a single story residence with walk out basement. First arriving crews found a well involved fire in the attic that had self vented. Visible fire involved 2/3 of the roof. There was no one home at the time of the fire and due to conditions command took a defensive position for fire attack. Mutual aid was requested from neighboring communities and officers were assigned to supervise Divisions A, B, C, and D. Operations Section Chief, Safety Officer, and a RIC team were also established. During fire attack crews operating on the C side of the building made a tactical decision to attempt entry to the main floor via a porch roof that covered a section of the C side walkout basement. Two firefighters were standing on the porch roof when it collapsed sending them to the ground. A mayday was immediately called and the RIT crew and staged ambulance immediately began mobilizing. Each firefighter was able to self rescue without injury.LESSONS LEARNED: Division and Group supervisors must relay the IC's objectives to crews working under their supervision. The IC must also relay his/her tactical plan to all Division and Group supervisors in order for everyone to operating under the same principles. Finally a risk benefit assessment must be made prior to changing tactical priorities. Luckily there were no injuries during this incident.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
At 4 am on Sunday we responded to an apartment fire. The fire building was divded in the middle by a garden level utility room with four mirrored appartments on each side, 2 up and 2 down. I'm usually very observant and cautious when I approach any fire building and I immediately noticed what I though was a fence gate or a wood cover that had been removed. It was on the ground a few feet from the fire building... Hatch1.jpg After the fire was declared out I was standing next to it with an engine crew and noticed smoke coming from the cracks in the wood. I first thought that there must have been burning material between the grass and the wood. But when I shined my light at it, I could see a deep void charged with smoke below it. With it's proximity to the utility room I figured it was a cellar that had been missed. The crew pulled it open and we had a return of hot steam... hatch2.jpg As it turns out this was a 4-5 foot deep sprinkler control pit, full of pipes. With its poor construction, the weight of one or two firefighters could have easily lead to a nasty fall into a pipe filled sauna. It was the first time I or anyone else had seen something like this, hopefully others will find it beneficial.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
CLOSE CALL 1
Do not be fooled by complacency or bad habits. No matter how much smoke there is it is dangerous. The photo's attached were taken at small kitchen fire that was actually extinguished before the arrival of the first due units. An elderly occupant that was unable to escape the structure was trapped on the second division in a bedroom. The ladder company quickly threw a ladder to the second division and brought the occupant down the ladder. The moderate smoke condition was ventilated and readings were taken using the HCN meter. At the time metering began the first division had a fair amount of natural ventilation that had occurred, so readings did not exceed 7ppm which is just about the department's action level of 5ppm. The second division saw higher numbers that were as high as 22ppm. These readings were taken once the fans were started and after natural ventilation had a chance to remove some of the smoke. Imagine what the levels were while the elderly occupant was waiting to be rescued. By looking at the photos it is hard to imagine numbers this high. This is only stresses the importance of utilizing SCBA and monitoring before removing it. Do not commit into the dangerous smoke filled environment because it doesn't look that bad, because looks are deceiving.
CLOSE CALL 2
At a recent incident 2 City firefighters were taken to the Hospital with the possibility of Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) exposure. A policy was in place to avoid this issue which was not followed. One of the reasons I’m sure was the size of the fire. We were on the smallest kitchen fire you could ever have. Very little smoke and the fire only left the stove and exposed the cabinet directly above. I don’t even think the ceiling was sooted up. It was one of those fires that we would have had cleaned up and been back at the station in a few minutes in days past.
With that established we have been running a HCN detector with the Township for close to a year. We typically run the unit though with a CO monitor after knockdown to make sure air quality is good enough to remove our masks. In this case we found High levels of CO over 100 ppm and HCN near 50 ppm in the building. With the IDLH of HCN being around 4 and the fire being out for 10-15 minutes already you can see where we were confused. We already had a Gas Powered Honda PPV fan in the front door ventilating so we gave it more time and sent a few guys in packs to the second floor to begin to strategically open windows. The two guys who had been on initial attack and following had removed their masks were seeing all this from outside and reported feeling a little nauseous. They were checked out by medics and as a precaution transported to the hospital to be checked out. Again there was absolutely no visible smoke in the structure at the time they removed their masks. They were later released with no ill effects.
We learned while still on the scene that when the fan was started in this case the choke was left partially on. You couldn’t tell as the fan was not sputtering and appeared to be running normally. With the readings not really coming down with close to 30 minutes of continuous ventilation already under our belt, we decided to put one of our electrical fans in the doorway in a PPV configuration to see if we could get the property ventilated. The levels slowly began to go down on the first and second floor but we were still finding pockets of higher readings. I opened up a small bathroom that had been closed from the start and got a quick reading of over 20 ppm. This home approximately of 2500 square feet had a basement with a secondary stair with Bilco doors. This door had been opened early on yet the door to the basement had been closed. As everyone who has vented a house knows this didn’t let air from either operation push into the basement. We were still getting readings of HCN near 40 ppm down there. Once we made sure that we had the door open and an exhaust from the basement it took around 10 minutes to get the area totally cleared out allowing us to clear the scene. This would have been one of those events that we would have cleared in 20 minutes and gave back to the family to occupy prior to using our HCN Detector.
As you can expect we had a lot of questions resulting from this call. To try to get a better idea of what had happened we took our fan down to our training building to run a few tests. First, we took readings of both CO and HCN and got 0’s. We then ran the fan in a PPV configuration into the space at full throttle for 15 minutes and took readings. We got really no readings on HCN and 17 ppm on the CO meter. We then ran the same fan at about half choke at full throttle for 15 minutes. Following this time we took a second set of readings. The HCN was up to 21, which is 5 times the IDLH number and the CO was at 96 which is also above what is acceptable for any length of time. Our monitors were located approximately 15 feet inside the multi room structure, one room past the room the fans were directly charging. We had one window open at the back side of the space with good air flow from the vent.
In closing I have been doing this job for over 25 years. I have choked on my fair share of smoke over that time. I was even taught to breath off the nozzle in my early years. Since we began using this detector it has really opened my eyes to the prevalence and pervasiveness of this gas. It doesn’t seem to be very predictable to date. All I can tell you is that we have been breathing it more than we thought over the years.
Close Call 1
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I have 3 close calls to inform you about. They all took place in the same department only a short time apart. The first was a single family dwelling( modular Type) with heavy smoke from a distance. First unit to arrive report heavy fire (fully involved) requested a tanker strike team of 4 Large tankers. As crews arrived they made entry on the dwelling (all occupants are out). They also placed 4 FF and 1 Probie on the roof which was already vented. Two or three turn out coats were burned and I believe two SCBAs. Another senior person and I stood in total awe. We have no say. Also they all stood around when they thought the fire was out and claimed what a great job they did. I then informed command the fire was still in the roof area.
Second fire, same companies was a two story farm house (balloon construction) with heavy fire on the first floor with all occupants out. Entry made with one FF has his foot go through the floor. At this time fire was now on second floor and the steps were somewhat burned out. A FF on the second floor had to bail out the window due to a flash over. The walls were covered with wood coverings.
The Third fire same companies was a two story farm house with heavy black smoke from some distance and was well involved upon arrival and the homeowner out of state. One crew starts a side A attack. A second crew tries to attack from side C. I asked them to stop. Multiple crews then tried to make entry through side A. I ask them to wait and was overruled. Ladders were then thrown to second floor and vented second floor porch roof reached and vent entry search tried. I asked command to evac the building 4 times as the attic was now well involved. Crews stayed on Div 1. A ladder pipe was used to knock the heavy fire out. When the ladder crew asked to continue command stated, we will get it from inside. Crews were now on DIV 2 with a burnt out attic (slate roof) mopping up. Also during this fire it was around 102 with heat index around 109. Three FFs were overcome with heat, 1 was the safety officer and the 2nd required large amounts of O2 and one required IV fluid and his heart monitored and he went back to fight the fire.
LESSONS LEARNED: I do not believe these crews learned anything. Three close calls in a short period of time. We make the same mistakes we made 30 years ago when I was on the department.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
On July 15, 2010 at 03:00 hours the Shamokin Liberty Engine 21 was pumping a HUMAT valve that was supplying Kulpmont Engine 211. A section of 5” LDH came out a coupling that was hooked up to Engine 21. The hose flew through the air and almost hit a TV camera man who was walking by with his camera. The engines were operating at 940 Chestnut Street (Pappy Baluta and Sons Plumbing Store) in Kulpmont, Pennsylvania at a three alarm apartment building fire.
The incident was an example that complete PPE must be worn while operating on the fire ground. Non-fire personnel should be always restricted from areas where fire units and hoses are in operations.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
We were called to a house fire with smoke showing on a M/A assignment. The first set of crews entered the house finding fire shooting at them extiguished and advanced to bacement to clear the rest of the fire. A Second crew entered into the house and were sent upstairs to vent the celing and overhaul while Third team entered to take care of main floor. Well this is where it happened, a crew of 3 on hose line enters the center of the main floor room and a District Chief on nozzle and falls into hole in center of floor. The Mayday was called and Chief pulled out of floor and he and his crew backed out of house.
LESSONS LEARNED:Futher review showed the first 2 crews had meet the floor and went around the hole sounding the floor the whole time. The Third crew followed hose line, and in followed it to the center of room but were not sounding floor for they figured since the first 2 crews made it in and no advised given a hole in floor that they were good to go. LESSON LEARNED NO MATTER WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE HOW AND WHY ALWAYS SOUND THE FLOOR LIKE SOUNDING
Video/Audio of the MayDay
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
On 2/20/10 at 0400 hours I reponded on a two man engine out of district to a neighboring volunteer fire district for a structure fire. While enroute dispatch reported a person trapped per the Police on scene. At this point my partner and I discussed our priority was to rescue the victim upon arriving on scene. Our engine arrived 30 seconds behind the volunteer company. They began deploying handlines to a basement fire. Fire was visible in the rear basement of a one story residential. My partner and I met with police to gather information on the victims location. We entered the side door on the first floor and proceded through a kitchen and down a narrow hallway. My partner took the first room on the right (Bathroom) I proceded to the end of the hall which was the bedroom. I discovered the victim laying next to the bed on the floor unconscious. I called for my partner and radiod out to IC that we had the victim and were exiting the building with the victim. We handed the victim off at the side door and reentered the building to continue our search. At this point what we did't know was the engine company attacking the fire was having water problems and there was no ventilation taking place. We continued our search for a few minutes with deteriorating conditions. Zero visibilty with intense heat. We tried to radio a few times asking the status of the fire and requesting information on any additional victims with no response. At this point it just didn't feel right. My partner and I decided to leave the building and regroup. We started to exit down the hallway and into the kitchen. When we got into the kitchen we would follow the counter and end up in the living room. The door we entered was in the kitchen and we couldn't find it. We made three attempts, additionally we called out to command and operations with no response. At that point we knew we were disoriented and we needed help to get out. My partner and I got together in the kitchen and called a mayday. I gave our location in the building as well as the first floor location. Almost immediately we heard the RIT coming up the porch stairs. They entered the building under extreme heat and zero visibility. We could here them coming and yelled back and forth until we could see there hand lights. They escorted us out of the building. Once removed from the building I discovered 2nd degree burns on both my knees. I went to the local clinic and was out of work for 2 weeks.
LESSONS LEARNED: One of the biggest lessons learned is know your surroundings. Now that I think about it I never heard or felt any water attacking the fire below us. Additionally I didn't hear any windows breaking for ventilation. Fire scene communications are always a problem in these situations. If we had an understanding of how advanced the fire was we wouldn't of put ourselves at rick to search for additional victims.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The other night at a "routine" house fire that could have been much worse. Units were dispatched to the intersection of Poplar Ave and Woodside Ave Tuesday night for a reported dwelling fire, first arriving Engine 5 (BCoFD career) reported a house fully involved and requested the WFD. Due to E-341 responding understaffed, E-371 was added to the call. Upon arrival, the crew from E-371 was directed to pull a 1 3/4 inch line from E-5 and proceed to the C/D corner of the involved dwelling to provide exposure protection. While stretching the line, the crew was directed to make entry into the involved dwelling by an officer from st. 34, and proceeded to make entry into a kitchen door on the C side of the dwelling. Immediately inside the door, the crew became entangled in an energized 220-volt electrical line dangling just inside the door. Both the nozzleman and the back-up man were instantly incapacitated by the electrical shock. The captain from E-371 immediately recognized the situation, and proceeded to swat the line away from the crew, then single-handedly dragged both members from the dwelling. They were immediately attended to by EMS on scene and were transported to St. Agnes hospital. The nozzleman was treated and released approximately 3 hours later, the back-up man was observed overnight and released the next morning. Both have returned to service as of this time.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I Responded with my volunteer fire department to a reported smoke report. Enroute we were upgraded to a structure fire in a garage. We are a volunteer department so a second department was dispatched as well. On arrival we found a well involved block structure with a wood framed garage addition on the front with heavy fire showing. Several FF's obtained SCBA while others pulled attack lines for a exterior attack and to cool a mobile home that was the primary exposure located near the structure. This was already showing radiant heat damage. Several FF's donned SCBA and obtained attack lines and began to advance the nozzles into the front bay area of the structure. On examination and prior to entering the crew had discussed that the roof did not look safe over the front bay area and had burned through. We used a straight stream to knock the tin and remaining roof trusses off the uprights from the exterior down onto the ground and on examination had a totally clear overhead to proceed through. After discussion it was decided to proceed forward. The floor was noted on entry to be concrete and entry was started again to work our way back the brick section to attack the fire still visible there. After taking a few steps over the roof debris now littering the floor the nozzleman disappeared from view. The nozzle man (myself) had been attempting to proceed carefully across the debris and was attempting to sound the debris when the tin roofing now laying across the floor folded and caused the firefighter to fall into a service pit located in the floor of the structure. After the initial fall I checked my air mask and made sure that it had not been dislodged and began to work myself up to an upright position. I still had possession of the hoseline and nozzle and began to place water on the fire in the rear of the structure. At this time I began to feel the heat of the debris so I directed the stream into the pit around me to cool the material around me. While I tried to free myself from the service pit the crew that was still exterior began to work their way to me and reached down to pull me out of the pit. I advised them I was at this time OK and to get me a folding attic ladder to provide me an way out. The pit was 6-8 feet deep with a difference in depth at each end. The IC had been advised of the fall and that a potential bad situation was developing and had requested EMS and a second alert for manpower and medical care. After a ladder was obtained and placed I self extricated from the pit and exited to access my gear. I did not luckily suffer any burns as I did have full PPE in place including a hood. After exiting I found that my only pain was a sore hand so EMS was canceled. I reported to the Chief who was briefed. After this I re assumed my position on a hoseline to assist in the final extinguishment.
LESSONS LEARNED: Wow, I learned a lot form this. We are not guaranteed another day in this job so it is up to us to make our task and jobs as safe as possible. our department now does more of a size up of the structure and announce possible hazards to responding units. Personally I have learned to do a better evaluation of the building and use a risk vs benefit attitude before I enter. We do have a rural department with limited manpower so we are looking at alerting a third department on each confirmed working fire for a dedicated RIT team. Remember a Chief or the IC needs to do the walk around but you must continually re access the structure. Even though the overhead was clear the debris that was once above now hid the danger that was below our feet. Remember that 6 side review. I did have a radio with me but did not call a Mayday or activate my PASS. After a recent review and articles I have read we are looking at a RIT class and the proper way to call a Mayday.
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