We responded to a report of a commercial structure fire around 0051 hrs, July 5th. Illegal aerial fireworks were still going off all around the city so it was no surprise when I arrived on scene I found a small glow with light smoke coming from the roof of a metal warehouse (there was no smoke coming from any doors or windows). My command post was set up in the street, with my view of the A/B corner blocked by the fence, setting up here left the entire access into the lot open for crew access. The warehouse was behind a locked gate so the chain was cut and a 1 3/4″ x 200′ hose line was deployed to the A/D corner which was directly below the glow. A 24′ ladder was thrown on the Delta side of the structure at the A/D corner but it was not used due to being too close to the overhead power lines to the building.
A second 24′ ladder was thrown on the bravo side near the A/B corner which now made the crews have to travel the length of the 75 foot long building to reach the fire. The alpha side was a no-go for ground ladders due to a full length metal awning that was supported by metal tie bars.
Fire attack was lead by a Captain and Firefighter who began to “rain” water down onto the fire until the crew assigned to the roof could gain access and determine the best course of action. Even though fire attack was taking place on from the exterior, I still established a 2-Out team since I had a Captain and a Firefighter going to the roof which was covered in corrugated metal with a row of translucent fiberglass panels approximately every 12-15′ apart. As I was performing a 360 and looking for utility shut-off’s, the Captain got to the roof and began to make his way towards the fire to get a better look at what was burning, he didn’t take a sounding tool with him and he didn’t wait for his Firefighter to reach the roof. After walking approximately 20 feet along the alpha side parapet he inadvertently veered slightly left and stepped onto one of the fiberglass panels and his foot broke through, causing his entire body to fall inward, breaking through the remainder of that portion. He landed on his back and was able to catch himself by fanning his arms and one free leg out and supporting himself on the rafters on either side of him. Fortunately, there was no fire on the interior of the structure so he was only stuck. He attempted to self extricate from the hole but the panel began to crack more.
At this time, he is still the only person on the roof, realizing he couldn’t self extricate he declared a Mayday over the tactical channel we were operating on, transmitting his Mayday in a surprisingly calm tone of voice. A second firefighter who was not assigned to the roof operation was at the base of the ladder when the Mayday was transmitted and she immediately went to the roof followed by an Engineer who was an Acting Captain for the shift. The Firefighter reached the entrapped Captain and in her haste she stepped partially onto the fiberglass panel and nearly fell in herself. By this time the Engineer had reached the two of them and they were able to grab the Captains hand which provided him the leverage he needed to be able to “roll” himself out of the hole.
As soon as he was freed he radioed me and advised he was out of the hole and he was uninjured. I then ordered everyone off the roof and had the Captain checked for injuries. Following the Mayday event, a third 24′ ladder was ordered to be placed in the middle of the Charlie side and at the suggestion of an off duty Captain, the ladder truck was moved into place to extinguish the still small fire, which was several loose 2×6 pieces of lumber that were left on the roof and dried leaves from surrounding trees.
After the fire was extinguished by the ladder truck, the Acting Captain and Firefighter who had performed the rescue were sent up the Charlie side ladder to “flip” the boards over so the ladder truck could spray water on the under sides of them. The Acting Captain and Firefighter were assigned the task since they had the greatest knowledge of the roof construction and skylight locations.
Do not let a small fire draw you into complacency, we had the truck on scene, we should have used the truck to ladder the building from the Alpha side which would have allowed our personnel to see the roof layout. It would have also given us the option to pull a hose line up the ladder or use it as a master stream if needed.
Although the Captain (and rescuers) were wearing SCBA’s, none of them were on air at the time.
Reinforce the need for a sounding tool any time crews are on the roof, and to use it.
Conduct a PAR upon the completion of the Mayday to account for all crews.
Maintain discipline during a Mayday event, fortunately for all involved we only had a small exterior fire that was not spreading, but if we had a working fire crews would have needed to stay on task, particularly with fire attack so the trapped firefighter would have been protected.
After the Mayday event, everyone not assigned a task milled around the A/B ladder, I had to order anyone not assigned back to the command post. This presented an accountability problem since they were not in my line of sight and it also left me without seeing who I still had available for additional assignments.