Sunday, August 22, 2004
A man who rescued a handicapped friend from a burning house, then ran back inside to try to battle the flames, himself had to be rescued by two city firefighters last night, police and fire officials said.
The drama unfolded on Gauntt Street, a one-block-long road that runs between East Broad Street and Bordentown Street at the eastern edge of the city.
Firefighters from the Fire Department were on nearby Pearl Street – having just determined a report of a tanker releasing vapors at the U.S. Pipe property along the railroad tracks to have been a false alarm – when they were alerted to a house fire with people trapped inside on Gauntt Street around 6:55 p.m., said the Chief. Firefighters arrived seconds later to find thick smoke pushing from the front of a two-story house, with flames visible at the rear, the Chief said.
Before the fire department’s arrival, a man who is either a resident of the building or a neighbor rescued a handicapped man who uses a wheelchair, police said. After pushing the man in his wheelchair out the front door to the safety of the sidewalk, that man ran back into the burning building in an apparent attempt to fight the fire, police said.
But police said the man was overwhelmed by smoke and became trapped inside. The Chief said two Captains immediately went to the front door and called out for the trapped man. Hearing moaning, they ventured into the hot, churning smoke and headed for the noise, feeling for the man. They were about 10 to 15 feet inside the building when they found him, the Chief said. As they were pulling the man toward the front door, they met other firefighters bringing the first hoseline inside, he said. In the confusing darkness, one Captains helmet and the face mask of his breathing apparatus were knocked off, exposing him to the choking smoke. Nevertheless, he said, the Captain managed to help each other bring the man outside, where all three were immediately checked out by emergency medical personnel.
The two firefighters were given oxygen for minor smoke inhalation and later returned to duty.
The man they rescued and the man in the wheelchair were both taken by ambulance to Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro, police said. Neither their names nor the extent of their injuries was available, but police said the man rescued by the firefighters suffered severe smoke inhalation and other respiratory problems.
City firefighters were assisted by several other fire companies. The cause of the blaze, which was brought under control by about 7:20 p.m., was under investigation, but it did not appear to be suspicious, the Chief said.
The firefighter immediately experienced an electric shock!
Our Department recently responded to a structure fire involving a garage and barn. The structures were both approximately 24 x 24. Our initial response consisted of three engines, one truck, one rescue, one squad, two tankers, the Shift Commander, and a Chief Officer. The first engines size-up stated that the garage was already down and exposure protection was the priority. A tanker shuttle operation was established and exposure protection was successfully accomplished. Normal notifications of the Fire Marshal and the Electric Division were made. The Electric Division representative was asked to insure that the power was shut off from a small pump house approximately 20 ft from the involved building. This action was completed and a test was put on the power lines in question. The line were de-energized by E.D. and moved to an area behind the pump house, away from the path travel.
During salvage operations, one firefighter removed a weed trimmer from the interior of the fire building. The firefighter then placed the weed trimmer, which had a metal shaft, across the wires, which were thought to be dead lines. The firefighter immediately experienced an electric shock and fortunately was able to release the item, which was still in contact with the wires. The firefighter was shaken, but not seriously injured. Medical attention was immediately administered. The firefighter was fortunate in this case and has returned to duty.
After investigating this incident, it was found that initially the suspect wires were dead. Sometime between the extinguishment of the fire and the salvage operation, the owner of the property found he did not have running water to his home. He then went to his electrical panel and began turning on breakers. Firefighters on scene had no knowledge of the owners actions. In the process of turning on breakers, the owner actually reenergized the wires, which were presumed dead.
In an effort to minimize incidents such as this, our Dept. and the Electric Division will be taking steps to provide safety to ours members and the public from the dangers associated with electricity on the emergency scene. Though this incident occurred on private property (wires from the meter into the homeowners structure) the Electric Divisions General Manager feels there will be ways of positively identifying power lines, which have been disconnected by E.D. employees. Initial ideas would include tagging power lines with brightly colored flags and using a lockout/tag out system similar to what the Fire Dept. utilizes presently.
The problems with electricity and emergency scenes will always be a safety concern for our responders. Our first line of defense is training. Treat every power line, cable T.V. line, and phone line as live. Get the big picture when arriving on any emergency scene. Make a size up of not only the structure or vehicle involved, but also of the perimeter and any electrical hazards. Stay away from power line when laddering a building. When conducting a 360 around a building, always carry a hand light. Assign a Safety Officer as soon as possible. Most of all use common sense. Dont let complacency ruin your life or the ones you love.
Sunday, August 22, 2004