The basics STILL must apply!
My FF and I were 1st due at a working fire in a 4,500 sq. ft. house. The garage was fully involved and partially collapsed, bringing down part of the sidewall of the house. 25 MPH winds were driving the fire into the house. I called a 2nd alarm and proceeded with the fire attack. I did not ventilate due to the high winds. We forced entry, and pushed into heavy smoke. We knocked down the fire in the first 2 rooms, pushed it down the hallway, and made it to the garage door. I had been pulling ceiling as we went, and in that area found fire in the attic. We attacked that as other units arrived. Additional hoselines were brought in, and crews attacked the attic fire. Myself and another LT went to search the 2nd floor. The other LT became sidetracked at the front door, and went to reassign crews. I continued upstairs and performed a search in light smoke conditions. I opened doors and windows as I searched. At the end of a long hallway, I found a bathroom and searched it. As I turned to leave the room, the light smoke immediately changed to thick, black, billowing smoke, and I knew a change in the fire conditions had just occurred. With my Maglite held beside my head, I could see less than a foot through the smoke. At that time, my low air alarm started sounding on my SCOTT pack. I tried calling in my situation, but couldn’t get through due to traffic. I pushed my emergency button, and was answered by our dispatch center. For reasons still unknown, my transmissions kept switching channels, and no one could communicate with me. One of our stations heard my call, and relayed my message to the dispatchers who told the IC. I decided to get myself out, searched and found the door. I felt that there was no heat, and cracked it open. There was no fire, just heavy smoke. Fortunately I had paid attention as I searched the 2nd floor and knew where to go to make it out. As I crawled down the hall, I saw light coming through the smoke. I turned and put my back to the wall, and stretched straight out. I could make out what looked like a window, so I carefully crawled to it, maintaining my orientation with the wall in case I had to go back to it. I made it to the window, broke it out, and hopped out onto a lower roof. I had a ladder raised and came down.
When I checked out my SCBA that morning, it had 1800 PSI. I topped it off with an additional 400 PSI. When I exited the fire, I had only 200 PSI left. If I had not filled the bottle, I would not have made it out.
Always fill your bottles, don’t be complacent. Don’t panic – remember your egress path in case you have to make an unexpected retreat! Be safe brothers and sisters!