One evening we were dispatched for a call for “Smoke in the House”. I arrived on scene at the same time as the Chief. We were met on the front lawn by the homeowner and his wife. He explained that earlier in the evening they had been watching television on an entertainment center that he had built into the closet of the master bedroom on the second floor. He said the television began to flicker with an odor of something burning. He said he had turned off the unit and unplugged it. He then went to the playroom on the ground floor of the house to continue to watch television on a second TV in that room. After about two hours, the wife said that she had gone to the kitchen on the first floor to get a soda, when she smelled smoke. When she went to the stairs leading to the second floor, she saw a heavy smoke condition. She notified her husband, who called 911. They immediately left the house and awaited our arrival.
Based on the visible smoke from the second floor windows, the Chief advised me he would transmit the signal for a working fire. I took the truck lieutenant and the “irons” man into the building. When we reached the second floor, we found smoke condition about two feet down from the ceiling. We donned our masks and proceeded down the hall. The fire was in the closet of the master bedroom. I closed the door to the room, and told the lieutenant that I was going to advise the chief that we had a working fire. I asked him to do a primary search of the rooms on that floor and to meet me at the landing. By the time I had finished my radio transmission to the I.C., the Engine Company was pushing up the stairs with the line. Because our hose line was keeping the front door open, the conditions on the second floor were deteriorating rapidly. As the nozzle man positioned himself to advance the line, I contacted the outside vent man (OV) to take the second floor windows on the exposure “B”& “C” corner of the building. As the hose team advance on the fire, I received a radio transmission, from the incident commander, there was fire showing through an attic vent on the exposure “B” directly above the fire room. He advised me that he was sending a crew to the roof to vent. I acknowledged his transmission and requested he tell me when the roof was open. I then directed the Truck lieutenant to have one of his men standby to pull the ceiling in the adjacent bedroom.
While this was going on, the roof team had cut a four by four hole in the roof. They had notched the corner of the cut to remove the piece of roofing. As they pulled on the cut section with a pike poll, it came off in one piece and slipped down between the rafters of the roof. It crashed through the ceiling of the bedroom and landed on the nozzle man and his backup.
What had been a routine call, changed instantly. Fortunately the Engine lieutenant, who had been supervising the operation from the doorway, got to the backup man, and removed him from the room. As I made the room, I was able to find the boot of the nozzle man. I lifted the piece of roofing material that was covering him and slid it on the bed next to him. As soon as I did that, He got up on his hands and knees. I grabbed the top of his SCBA bottle and pointed him to the door. We were lucky that the major part of the fire had been knocked down by the time this happened. The rest of the call went routinely, and every one went home.
The lesson I learned was that there are no routine fires, and that Yogi Berra was right when he said “It ain’t over till its over”. The thing that did work in our favor was that every member had all of their turnout gear on including hoods. We came away from the incident with no injuries.