On 31 Dec 2007, at approximately 1200hrs, E4 was returning to the station, in service and staffed with one firefighter driving. E4 was flagged down on a major thoroughfare by a citizen stating that “a house [had] exploded” one block away on a side street. The FF on E4 notified the rest of the shift (1 Captain, 1 FF) that had already returned to the station on another apparatus. An automatic-aid structure fire assignment of E3 (1 CPT, 1 FF), E5 (2 FF), and Aerial 1 (2 FF) began responding. E4 arrived to find a 2-story garage apartment with the entire “A” side wall blown off and laying in the driveway of the residence. A small fire was visible in the now-open kitchen area. Neighbors were tending to a male resident/victim in the grass at the bottom of the exterior staircase on the relatively intact “D” side. The E4 FF parked the apparatus, placing it in pump gear, anticipating the arrival of other personnel. Wearing station wear, he began patient care of the 40-50yo M victim on the “D” side of the structure. The pt had 2-3deg burns on all areas above the waist. Shortly thereafter, a second explosion occurred in the structure, exposing the FF and victim to large amounts of radiant heat. The FF sustained first and very minor second degree burns to his arms, hands, and neck. After the second blast, the structure was fully involved, and two nearby adjacent residences were damaged. The other responding units arrived and contained the fire. The explosion is still under investigation; the source has been isolated as a natural gas source in the kitchen area. During the same incident, a FF was operating patient removal. A deck gun from the adjacent roadway when the electrical service drop to the structure burned away and landed on the engine, burning part of the aluminum body. The firefighter abandoned his position without injury.
1) Staffing is CRITICAL even if fire administration, the city manager, and city council don’t think so. Even one more person on the first-arriving apparatus would have made a difference in providing protection for patient removal.
3) Apparatus placement and mitigation of “normal” hazards (ie, utilities).