Close call in Pontiac  
February 22, 2001 

Three firefighters from Pontiac came close to losing their lives as they looked for victims in a house fire that spread unexpectedly. Firefighters were at the scene three minutes after they were alerted.  

The fire initially looked like a small, routine house fire from the outside. Firefighters were sent inside to search for victims since the house looked occupied.  

As the firefighters went upstairs,the fire flashed over and engulfed the entire second floor in flames almost immediately.   

One of the captains and two firefighters were trapped. The captain was able to find his way to a window and broke it. Firefighters outside pulled him to safety.  

One of the other two who were trapped inside found their way to the window, dove out of the window and slid down the ladder.   

The last of the three firefighters jumped out of the window and climbed down the ladder. The three firefighters were taken to the hospital and received only minor burns.  

 
Just a "routine" house fire 
We've heard that before 
by Chief William Goldfeder  

It appears that, although there were injuries, an important task at this fire was done, and it paid off. A ladder was extended and in place for the firefighters to escape...before it was needed! Think about your last 2-1/2 story dwelling fire...were ladders placed to provide a way out? Don't count on the interior stairs.You probably remember the story of a fire at the end of 1999 (the one where there were a total of 5 firefighters on the first alarm.) that was described as "looking normal"...and then within seconds three firefighters died moments later in a genuine FLASHOVER, as the investigation revealed.  

FLASHOVER in it's true form is rarely survivable, as the experts tell us. But a whether it flashes, rolls-over or whatever several essential tactics and  procedures MUST be done to minimize the chances of it occurring: 
 Withthecommand.com  file photo  
  • 1-Ya gotta VENTILATE
  • 2-Ya gotta COOL
  • 3-These must occur simultaneously and in coordination
You can't expect to respond to a reported house fire with four or five people on the initial alarm and then expect to be able to handle it properly. 

I don't care how good ya are.I don't care if you can do the firefighters combat challenge in under a minute while wearing two airpacks. I don't care if you have a thermal imaging camera for everyone and your mother. I don't care if your new pass device beeps to remind you that Jerry Springer is on in 20 minutes..... None of that crap matters!  

What matters is the basic stuff of water supply, stretching the 1st hose line, stretching the second hose line, vent crew (inside and outside), truck work, search & rescue... all done at the same time-coordinated by an experienced and trained Chief on the scene-with adequate staffing to do it in!...  and trained on it plenty of times "before the run". 

Anyonecan do these tasks one or two at a time...but to do it successfully and to minimize the chance of anyone gett'n hurt... they gotta be done at the same time!  Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where, no matter what,we're still going to be placed 'at risk'....  

As a Fire Officer, you are responsible to determine those risks through your initial size-up...and then continue doing that during the run. As Chiefs, prior to the emergency, you are responsible to have the training, personnel and response and operational plans in place so the job can get done-the right way.  

One final note... I mentioned "risk" before. We are in a "risky business" the public expects us to take needed risks when someone needs our help....just ask them!!   

We may get hurt or even lose the life of one of our own in the provision of our duties-the key is do do everything you can PRIOR to the run, to insure the public, your troops and yourself that you have done the best to be ready. Beware of those in our business who want to "risk manage" firefighting to the point where we have completely lost touch with our mission...to save lives, which includes our own.

About the author: Chief William Goldfeder, a 27 year veteran of the fire service, is a Battalion Chief/Director of Planning and Development for the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in  
southwestern Ohio. 

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