Re: Air pack: Interspiro Spiromatic
In November of 2004, our department (in Michigan) was dispatched at approx 22:30Hrs to Lakeshore Dr. for a reported Fire Alarm. In route dispatch advised us that it was not Lakeshore Dr, but instead the Cleveland Ave. apartment complex. This address is in the same complex in which about 1 year ago we had an apartment fire that displaced 140 people and destroyed approximately 40% of the 3 story apartment building. While enroute dispatched notified us that they were receiving calls and officers on scene reported smoke and flames showing. Unknown if occupied. We responded with 1 engine (Capt. and Engineer) and 1 100 Tower (Lt. and FF) On duty crew. Reserve firefighters were toned out to this call. (6 total)
Upon arrival on a Residential 2-story apartment complex with approx 20 units with smoke showing on side A of ground level inside apartment. Residents from other units were evacuating and stated that they did not know if resident was out or not. No smoke showing from units on each side or above. Unknown at this time if unit is single or two story unit. This complex has a variety of different type units.
As Capt was conducting a size up, my self and my FF prepared for a primary search of apartment. In full PPE and 1 hand line we forced entry from side A through slider and advance into the apartment. We advanced in to the right and searched the dining room, kitchen, hallway to side door, bathroom and into back bedroom. Visibility at zero with heavy black smoke and little heat. Upon exiting the rear bedroom search, I inhaled and found resistance from my regulator. Upon exhaling and re inhaling, I received no air and my mask collapsed on my face. Out of air and no Low Air Alarm warning. At this point in time, we were about 30 feet into the structure and about 5-7 minutes into our search. I notified my partner of situation and decided to rapidly follow hose line out and not attempt to buddy breathe. During the entire search communications with IC (Capt.) were attempted, but were hampered by skip traffic, static interference, muffled communication from interior crew. (Note: interior crew could clearly hear IC, but IC could not make out interior communications) As IC was calling for search crew to come out, I ran out of air. My radio traffic was nothing but static when trying to notify IC of my situation. As we were exiting the structure, we passed back up team advancing into structure.
Air packs: Interspiro Spiromatic
Bottle: 4500 psi 30 minute carbon composite
Air pack inspected at 08:00 by user. At inspection time unit was in working order with 4500 psi of air in bottle.
Upon exiting officer seat, user had to re-tighten connection at cylinder valve due to air leak. Tightening stopped leak and still contained full bottle.
Upon doffing pack after incident, Lead engineer noticed large ice buildup on pack where regulator is attached to cylinder valve.
Air pack worked flawlessly upon donning and up until malfunction.
No low air alarm sounded.
Unit taken out of service
Dispatch tapes revealed that no Low Air Alarm was sounding during interior communications. The smoke detector could clearing be heard in the back ground of the interior radio traffic.
Dispatch tapes revealed garbled traffic from interior crews and clear traffic from IC.
Interspiro Inspection and conclusion:
1. Inspection of air pack revealed no defects.
2. Low air alarm properly worked when tested.
3. Regulator and by pass worked properly.
4. Rep admitted this has happened before at other fire depts.
5. Dont rely on Low Air Alarm, always visually check gauge. ( in zero visabilty..OK)
6. If the apparatus is used at ambient temperatures of 32 deg F or below and wetted with water, external icing can cause malfunctions of the acoustic warning device. In case of low temperatures the apparatus pressure gauge must be read more frequently.
7. If the Low Air Alarm is restricted in any way (i.e.: debris, insulation, pack strap, etc.) it will not function properly. Proper maintenance is a must. (like these things are not found during firefighting operations)
8. Always visualize air supply and listen for Low Air Alarm when turning on unit.
City actions taken:
1. Annual inspection , maintenance and testing of all air packs, regulators and masks done. This was done after the incident and 6 months past the manufacturers recommended time frame.
2. Daily inspection check list for all packs and bottles.
3. Fundraiser to purchase of Voice Projection Units for all masks.
We have consistently in the winter months had problems with the packs icing up and not being able to change out bottles. Breathing valves experience this same problem. Our solution is to swap out with a new mask and pack, and put the iced up one in a heated cab to thaw. Attached is a picture of me showing an interior shot of the high pressure line iced up during routine operations. For additional contact: firstname.lastname@example.org