My Ladder company arrived to a 2 story residential fire with heavy charged smoke coming from the second floor. As the D/O (Driver/Operator) on our Ladder company it was my duty to establish a secondary means of egress for interior companies that were gaining entry. Per our department procedure, this is one of the responsibilities of the Ladder co. D/O anytime that their is 2 or more stories, in addition to starting some simple horizontal ventilation once hoselines are in place.
I grabbed a hook, ladder anchor, and a 24′ ladder from the truck and made my way to the "C" side of the house and completed a one person raise on a smooth concrete slab. The window was already open with light smoke showing from it. At this time I radioed my inside team (Lt. and firefighter) and the Incident Commander of the secondary egress location. At this time I did not feel comfortable leaving the ladder there (with the relaxed angle) unsecured on the smooth slab if a brother was in need of using it in a hurry to escape. So, without anyone footing the ladder I proceeded up to anchor the top rungs into the window sill. I was in full PPE, and SCBA without my mask on my face. When I reached the sill, I secured myself to the ladder with a proper "leg lock" in the rungs and hooked the anchor to the sill and looked down to secure the rope to the rungs. As I completed my hitch, the Engine company opened up their line as they advanced up the interior stair well. Without adequate ventilation yet, there was only one way for the fire to be forced out. I looked up just as the hot smoke and gases hit me in the face. Before I could do anything, I felt an incredibly hot sensation in my chest and felt myself begin to lose consciousness. I don’t know how long I was out for, but it could not have been more than a few seconds. I was hanging to my right side by my right leg on the ladder rung. I struggled to upright myself on the ladder with all my effort. It was very difficult to unlock my leg from the rungs, since as I had to rise up to withdraw my leg, it put my head back up into the now venting window. I freed up my leg and quickly descended the ladder. It took me a moment to collect myself as I realized how luck I just was. I could have easily been burned both on my face as well as inhalation burns to my airway and lungs. Furthermore, I could have easily fell to the ground approximately fifteen feet to the concrete slab below.
After gathering myself and completing my tasks, I met back up with my Lieutenant and made him aware of what had happened. We assured that I was O.K. and the Incident Commander was also made aware of the "Close Call".
When climbing a ground ladder ensure that someone is footing it.
When entering a potentially I.D.L.H. atmosphere, wear your mask!
When working from a ground ladder if at all possible, lock in with your truck belt or a leg lock. It saved me from all of the other mistakes that I made leading up to that point.
Also, this incident occurred on a "controlled" practice burn. Does that make it worse? It really didn’t make a difference