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Electrically Charged Telephone Lines Cause Fire and FF to be Shocked

Saturday, January 29, 2011  There was a structure fire yesterday at an unfinished and abandoned house with an attached garage. The house has been unoccupied for more than a decade and there were no electricity lines to the house. There was however a telephone line still running through some trees to the house (more on that later!). After extinguishment and during overhaul a firefighter from a neighboring fire service brushed against a branch near the telephone line and received a14,400 volt shock! He was transported by ambulance and spent the night in hospital under observation but has since been released and returned home. It seems at some point the telephone line which traversed the road in front of the house had been struck by probably a large vehicle and flew up and became tangled with the high tension electric lines, and started feeding 14,400 volts to the house through the telephone wire. We also found signs inside that indicated the hot telephone wiring had started fires inside before that just hadn’t taken off until yesterday.


We learned that a 4 or 5 strand copper telephone wire could and can transport high voltage electricity and we will be more careful around all lines in the future.




Thursday, January 27, 2011  Wednesday, January 18, 2010. T-82 was on their way to do routine business inspection when they noticed black smoke coming from a residential neighborhood. They took a brief detour and confirmed heavy smoke coming from the alpha bravo bedroom window. T-82 reported it to dispatch and then took command. A-82, E-81, A-81, BC-81, E-181 and BC -181 were dispatched to the residence. It was undetermined if the house was occupied. A firefighter from T-82 had deployed a 1 ¾ cross lay, the fan, and a set of irons to the front door. A-82 arrived first and was assigned to fire attack. Command told fire attack team that an exhaust hole was made and to initiate a positive pressure attack. The front door was forced open showing heavy black smoke to the floor and the fan was turned into the structure. FF-2 checked the floor and attempted to check the ceiling but could not be reached by the hook due to the vaulted ceiling. Meanwhile FF-1 checked the nozzle pattern. FF-1 then entered the structure assuming that FF-2 had checked the ceiling. Heavy black smoke remained in the structure limiting visibility to zero. FF-1 advanced the hose line down the hallway to the bedroom looking back two times and seeing FF-2 behind him. Meanwhile, FF-2 could not see FF-1 due to zero visibility. Then FF-2 had turned around to check on FF-3 assisting with advancement of the hose and assumed he had exited the structure. Not wanting to leave his partner, he followed the hose line to catch up with him. As FF-1 approached the bedroom, fire was visible on the upper portion of the door frame and was knocked down. FF-1 continued the advancement of the hose line to the door of the bedroom. FF-1 saw heavy fire through the brown colored smoke and positioned himself to the middle of the door way to see the fire directly. FF-2 immediately turned back around and to catch up with FF-1. During that time FF-1 entered the fire room approximately 4’ unaware that he entered into the fire room. FF-2 had caught up with FF-1 and noticed snakes rolling out into the hall. FF-2 motioned to cool the ceiling to FF-1. The ceiling was cooled and the fire was extinguished. Overhaul operations began immediately to check for extension into the ceiling and adjacent rooms. No fire extension was found. As the initial fire attack team was rehabbing, it was noticed that FF-1s helmet was charred to the point that helmet had to be replaced and the nomex hood was burnt around the face and the SCBA mask was spider cracked. FF-1 had received 2nd degree burns on two fingers. During the fire investigation, a line of demarcation was clearly visible at about 3' above the floor. The structure had vaulted ceilings that peaked at 18’-20’ above the floor that covered half the of the fire floor. It was also found that the top part of the over range microwave had melted, which was on the opposite side of the house from the fire room. Light charring was visible on everything on the fire floor above 6’.
SLOW DOWN and be patient, wait for PPV to take effect, cool ceiling during hose advancement, coordinate with command adequate exhaust holes, never assume and avoid the unknowns, know the reach of the hose stream and use it to your advantage.



Captain Becomes Disorientated, Declares MayDay, Runs Out of Air - CLOSE CALL

Thursday, January 20, 2011  We responded to a structure fire, while enroute and when arriving on scene we were getting reports of people trapped on the upper floors.arrived on scene and size up revealed a working fire in a 2 1/2 story woodframe structure. First engine arrived on scene and stretched an 1 3/4 handline, a back up line was also depliyed, ladders were placed to the upper floors, A Captain and a fire fighter went up to the second floor to conduct a primary search, the first door they encountered was a bathroom, they searched it and when exiting the Captain went to the right into a bedroom and the fire fighter coming out a couple seconds behind came out and went straight into another bedroom. while the Captain was conducting a search, he got turned around, he found the wall and started looking for an exit, not being able to find a window (one covered by sheet rock the other a small kitchen window) He continued to try and find a means of egress, the captain then started to become disoriented at which time he began to deplete the cylinder on his SCBA. He declared the MAYDAY and then completely depleted his air cylinder. The Captain then takes off his helmet and face piece and stays as low to the floor as possible, Hearing the mayday an ex chief equiped with a thermal immaging camera decends on the second floor and begins a search for the mayday fire fighter.(automatic mutual aid FAST team not on scene yet). At this point the ex chief locates the missing member, as he is going to try and remove him the Captain goes unconcious, the rescue fire fighter rolls the Captain on his his side and using his scba pulls him to the stairway and down the stairs where he assisted by other members. The Capatin then comes out of the structure unconcious at which time members start first aid and turn him over to EMS. The Captain was transported to the hospital and released later that morning with no injuries.

LESSONS LEARNED: Team integrity, slow down and look at the big picture, push to have building and fire inspectors be dilligent in their job this resdince was chopped up into 4 SRO's.




Wednesday, January 19, 2011  We were called out to brush fire. Upon arrival fire had spread to trailer. First in Engine company assumed IC, and started extinguishing brush fire. The second in Engine Company started surround and drown on trailer. A Fire fighter with 5+ years experience neglected ICS and started pulling siding from trailer(freelancing). Fire was burning intensely and as fire fighter pulled a section off fire from inside trailer and engulfed fire fighter. Fire fighter had complete PPE on and was breathing air. Mask on BA had heat stress cracks in lens, hard plastic that holds exhalation valve in on MSA also melted, and nomex hood was singed and burned. Luckily no injuries resulted from this incident.

Always wear your complete PPE. Know what the fire is doing, and what you need to do (proper size-up/neglected IC) by checking with IC. Do not freelance on any scene.




Saturday, January 15, 2011  I was a rookie firefighter going on my first structure fire. Ours is a small fire district with a combination department. We got the call at about 5:30 AM on a Wednesday morning and the driver, lieutenant, and I rolled out of bed and responded to a working fire in a 3 bedroom ranch style home. I was 2nd man on the 1.88" attack line. My lieutenant pulled the nozzle toward the fire in a bedroom on the C/D corner of the building. Thick white smoke was stacked down from the ceiling about waist high. I was humping hose across the living room floor when I noticed a five square foot black "stain" on the carpet. Under conditions at that time I could not determine if the mark I was looking at was in fact a stain or a wet spill of some kind. I rubbed my gloved fingers on it and could not see if wetness was on my gloves. Forgetting about my SCBA I actually raised my hand to my face to smell my glove but smelled nothing, of course, through my mask. I pulled the remaining hose needed and caught up to my lieutenant and asked him if saw the stain? He had not. He already had the fire knocked down and it stayed in the one room. With the fire out I quickly searched the home for any surviving pets as we found 2 dead cats and a dead dog. Turns out the large discoloration on the floor was gasoline. The homeowner had emptied a 5 gallon gas can inside the home and ignited it claim insurance fraud. Lucky for us, she did not open any doors or windows and the fire never got going. Also lucky nobody attempted any ventilation before the fire was out. Everything went fast and smooth and the fire was declared out exactly 15 minutes after the call came in.

LESSONS LEARNED: If I had that exact situation to do over again I would announce the "stain" on the radio. I would crack my seal on my mask enough to stick my glove in and get a whif, or step outside the structure long enough to smell my glove. Either way I would smell the accelerant, call for emergency evac of the structure and we would go defensive on that fire. At first we thought the animals died of smoke inhilation, but later found the the concentration of gasoline vapor killed them by asphixiation. It is still hard to think of what might have been if that fire had gotten a breath of air. I think the obvious lesson here is: Trust your instincts, if something looks suspicious say something. Then investigate it enough to rule out something dangerous.



TJI's Lead to Another CloseCall - Indiana

Saturday, January 8, 2011  On December 30, 2010 Burns Harbor Fire Department was dispatched to report of smoke in the basement of a residence. First arriving unit reported smoke coming from the basement. The fire was contained to a laundry room that left the rest of lower level with smoke damage. Units were able to deploy 250 of1-3/4  to rear of the house and make entry directly to the basement and into the fire room. After interviewing the homeowner, the homeowner stated that he was home at the time of the fire and his smoke detectors began to go off. He looked upstairs where he was caulking and painting and seen nothing. He went to walk down the stairs to the basement and was overcome by smoke immediately. He exited the house and called 911. Fire units were dispatched and were on scene within 11 minutes. Suppression was initiated approximately 14 minutes after dispatch. In the time it took for units to respond and begin to attack the fire there was substational damage to the floor joists for the room above the fire room. The floor joists were pre-manufactured joists made of 2x2S and OSB webbing. Units were advised to exit the structure until the area was more secured. When the units exited the structure the fire was under control and over haul began to take place. In the room with substantial floor damage there was only a dresser in the area of the partial floor collapse. The hallway and rooms adjacent to the partial floor collapse were weakening significantly from the radiant heat. More and more homes are being built using the pre-manufactured floor joists. Within every community fire department awareness on building construction within their town/city should be become a critical part of training especially with today's economy and homes being built the most economy way instead of the safest way. Pre-manufactured floor joists are good building material; however, they are not good for any type of fire and/or radiant heat condition. Our units that were initiating the fire attack had no knowledge of the floor above them becoming extremely weak and beginning to collapse. With effective communication and training we were able to send all units home safe.

LESSONS LEARNED: Pre manufactured floor joists have an extremely short burn time even under a room and contents fire. Partial/Full floor collapse is nearly a given.




Monday, January 3, 2011  At 0831 hours, 12 December 2010, Engines 12, 19, 8 Rescue 12, Truck 2 and Battalion 3 were dispatched to a structure fire at 71st St and 2nd Ave N. Engine 12 gave a report of a 2 story wood frame house with, heavy smoke coming from the roof. Engine 19 reported on the scene and dropped their plugman at the hydrant and laid 1, 5” supply line into Engine 12. Being the acting officer on Engine 19, fully dressed with all PPE and handheld radio, I proceeded to the front door of the structure to assist Engine 12s crew with pulling slack for the 1 ¾ preconnect. Engine 12s crew had not located the fire and was searching for the origin of the fire. I entered the structure and proceeded up the stairs with 1 personnel from Engine 12. Upon reaching the top of the stairs I asked Engine 12s firefighter to get me a pike pole so we could access the attic. There was zero visibility upon ascending the stairwell and there was no heat. I took 2 possibly 3 steps into the second floor and unknowingly walked between two 2x4 studs of a framed unfinished wall. After a few minutes waiting on 12s crewmember to return I began to search for the stairwell to exit the 2nd floor. I knew I had taken a couple of steps so when I felt one of the studs of the wall, I moved back the way I thought I had stepped. When I moved I came to another stud. I immediately dropped to the floor to reach for the steps down and did not feel them. Being against what I thought was a wall; I began to do a right handed search of the room thinking I would make my way around the room back to the stairwell. After making my way around the room I ended up over the fire room which was right below me. Engine 12s crew had located the fire and had begun extinguishment. There was a lot of heat in that area and I quickly moved away to an area, that I did not know at the time, but was right were I had stepped through the studs. I then conducted a MAYDAY over the radio and activated my PASS device and waited on the RIT team. What I did not know is that the house was under restoration and the second floor was having a second room added to it. The studs that I walked between were approximately 22 inches apart. The smoke had traveled through the balloon construction walls and the floor of the second story was plywood that had large gaps at their seams.

LESSONS LEARNED: Never be inside a structure by yourself, always carry a tool inside, never consider a fire "routine", and always have your radio with you.




Friday, December 17, 2010  A Vermont Firefighter was briefly trapped in a commercial fire/collapse on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 in St. Albans, Vermont. The fire occurred at a furniture rental store in St. Albans(Vermont) around 1300 Hours. When companies arrived at the scene, the propane tanks at the rear of the structure were venting gas and flames were 30 feet high. While operating at the fire, the ceiling collapsed and trapped a firefighter inside the building. The firefighter was able to get out of the building, using a window. He called for help and identified his location as being in the rear of the structure near a window. Another firefighter on the outside of the structure was able to smash open the window and pull the firefighter out. The firefighter briefly collapsed upon his exit. The firefighter was checked out by EMS crews and was not injured.




Thursday, December 16, 2010 
Three firefighters battling a Staten Island blaze Wednesday miraculously escaped serious injury after a wooden floor collapsed -- sending them crashing one level below.

The Bravest were called to a burning building on Hylan Blvd. in Great Kills just before 1 a.m., fire officials said.

When firefighters arrived, flames had already engulfed a second floor apartment which sits atop Bella Home Improvements. As firefighters attacked the blaze, the floor suddenly buckled.

Three firefighters plummeted from the second floor down to the first, narrowly missing colleagues. They were trapped under debris for several minutes, but only suffered bumps and bruises, officials said.

"A group of firefighters on the first floor were very lucky that there was nobody that sustained serious injuries," said Assistant Chief James Esposito. "It involved quite a bit of weight. Structural wood did come down, and we're very fortunate that nobody was in the direct path of this fall."

Read more:

Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein

Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein





Sunday, November 14, 2010  A fire Wednesday in a house on Foxwood Lane south of the Vestal Parkway sent a firefighter to the hospital and left a family with an uninhabitable home.

The Vestal firefighter, Josh Owen, fell from a second floor bedroom to the first floor of the house, but his injuries were not serious. He was treated at a local hospital for a strained shoulder and released, said Vestal fire Chief Doug Rose.
Owen, 25, has been with the volunteer fire department for nine years and is a first lieutenant.
The fire, at 2509 Foxwood Lane, a cul-de-sac off Holly Hill Road, was reported shortly after 3 p.m. by a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, said assistant fire Chief Chuck Paffie. No one was in the house when the fire broke out, according to fire officials.
"In 10 minutes, we had the fire knocked down," Paffie said.
Vestal, Endicott and Endwell fire departments responded, with the Town of Binghamton and Apalachin fire departments on standby.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
"We're leaning toward electrical at this time," Paffie said.
The house had obvious damage to the first and second floors in the right front corner, causing fire damage to an upstairs bedroom and downstairs dining room. There was smoke damage and "a lot of heat damage," Paffie said.



02 Tank Failure Leads to Close Call at Structure Fire

Friday, October 22, 2010  A fire engine and ambulance were dispatched to a medical emergency in a local mobile home park. Prior to arrival, a structure fire was dispatched in the same park but to a different address. The engine was diverted to the structure fire with the ambulance continuing to the medical emergency. An additional engine was dispatched to cover the medical emergency. On arrival, the engine company officer reported a working fire and they would be attacking the fire with 1 ¾ hand lines. The engine crew donned their PPE, pulled hose lines, and prepared to make an attack. An explosion occurred and the officers radio report indicating that the crew was hurt but they were continuing the fire attack. Both firefighters were knocked to the ground by the blast and received minor injuries. A neighbor in a nearby home received burns from the explosion while adjacent homes were also damaged by the blast and fire. The first Battalion Chief arrived on-scene and reported a fireball as well as fire engulfing the mobile home with two exposures. He also identified two injured firefighters and one hurt civilian. The Chief assumed command and requested additional ambulances. The home was destroyed by the blast and fire. Each of the injured was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. All of the injuries are considered non-life threatening. Fire investigation determined the explosion resulted from a catastrophic failure of an Oxygen cylinder. The investigation indicated that a number of cylinders had failed during the fire although another Oxygen cylinder had survived intact.

LESSONS LEARNED: All crew members were wearing full PPE which reduced the effects of the blast and minimized the injuries to firefighters. All PPE must be donned prior to approaching the scene. Failure of any member of the crew to have their full PPE on could have resulted in serious, possibly life threatening injuries.



Wires Down Go Unnoticed - Leading to Numerous Close Calls

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.



Pump Operator Error Causes Close Call on the Fireground

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.



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