William Kaempffer, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN Firefighters jumped through windows to escape flames after being trapped inside a burning house Wednesday in the East Shore section.
Three firefighters one severely burned were taken to the hospital for injuries suffered while battling the two-alarm fire.
“I thought we were going to lose someone,” said Battalion Chief Patrick Andrews, ignoring a bloody hand and arctic temperatures. “First time in my 21-year career.”
The fire broke out at 14 Cove St., a two-family house on the Harbor Point Marina property.
Flames were pouring from the front of the house when fire engines arrived shortly after 2:30 p.m., Andrews said.
The fire crews pulled in two fire hoses and began attacking the blaze from the inside and searching the building for possible victims.
Conditions in the burning building quickly turned against the firefighters. One fire engine crashed en route to the blaze. Other companies were delayed because the Ferry Street drawbridge was up.
Then a sudden drop in water pressure from the hydrant left firefighters inside with no water in the attack lines.
“The conditions deteriorated very rapidly; there was a flashover,” said Fire Chief Michael Grant, referring to superheated fire gases, furniture and other combustibles that suddenly erupted into a wall of flame, trapping the firefighters.
“We had to get everyone out of the building,” Andrews said. Some firefighters on the first floor crawled out windows.
A fire captain trapped on the second floor was pulled out by colleagues.
Grant said Capt. Howard McCann suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns on his neck and head.
“Hes being evaluated by plastic surgeons,” said Grant.
There was some discussion about transferring him to the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital, Grant said.
Lynn Deffendall of 29 Cove St. said she noticed smoke coming from the house when she came outside for a firewood delivery.
“I just went running over there,” she said. “In 15 to 20 seconds, it went from a little smoke to just gushing” fire.
Thats when she saw the mother living on the first floor run out with her two small children, dressed in pajamas, in her arms.
Neighbors tried to dissuade Donald Miller, who lives on the second floor, from running back inside to save the family dog. He ran in once but was pushed back by the flames.
The Pekinese, named Shane, apparently died in the blaze.
Wayne Miller, who also lives at 14 Cove St., said he arrived home when the fire already was raging. His bother Donny, he said, was taking the loss of his dog particularly hard.
“He couldnt care less about the house or anything else but the dog,” he said, his voice trailing off.
Grant said the Fire Department would look for the cause of the water pressure problem.
“Were working on critiquing it now.”
But he added that his first concern was with making sure his firefighters were OK.
The house was damaged so extensively that city building officials planned to raze it Wednesday night.