During a recent dwelling fire in a 2 story garage converted into two apartments, several crews were inside overhauling immediately after the fire was knocked. While operating in the kitchen we heard a hissing noise coming from the area of the stove. Noting that it was an electric stove we searched for another source of the noise. The officer from the Tower opened the oven door and quickly shut it. I asked him what he had found and he opened it again and showed me a 20 pound LP gas cylinder on its side in the oven. The valve was in the off position and the gas was venting from the relief valve. We removed all unnecessary crew members from the area, quickly scouted the path to the deck for any open flames and removed the cylinder to the outside. Even with firefighting gloves the cylinder was hot enough to be painful through the glove. The cylinder was then cooled until it was empty.Apparently the occupant of the home was intent on injuring himself or his family and burning his house. He fled the scene after refusing medical treatment and initially speaking to the Fire Investigators.Later that evening after the Fire Investigators had completed their investigation we were beginning to complete the overhaul and were assisting the occupant’s wife with removing some personal belongings. At this point the occupant returned to the scene with a knife drawn and ordered all Fire Department personnel from his house. We quickly complied and took cover as a hour long police operation began. After he was arrested we were allowed to continue overhauling and cleared the scene. He has since been charged with First Degree Arson, Hindering Fire Department Operations and Reckless Endangerment.
This is a perfect example of the fact that there are no “routine” calls. Anything and everything can happen at the scene of an emergency. Personal protective equipment and accountability would have been the key factors if there had been a secondary fire or explosion while crews were operating in the building. His subsequent return to the scene with a weapon only highlights the fact that we must never let our guard down while operating on an emergency scene.