Friday, July 10, 2009
As told by my firefighter...
After being asleep for about 25 minutes (at 1:30 a.m. because of another call) the tones went off again. We were dispatched to a structure fire. I was so tired that it took a second for my brain to kick into gear and for me to realize that I needed to hurry. I ran out to the apparatus bay and quickly donned my turnouts. Just as we cleared the bay our battalion chief arrived on scene and reported a fully involved garage and to have all units responding continue in. Hehehe. I was awake now.
The engine from station 3 was the first to arrive on scene beating us by a few seconds. We jumped out and went over to help. The engineer off the first in engine needed help hand jacking 5" hose to the hydrant. While one of the firefighters from my crew did this the other firefighter from my crew jumped on the deck gun and started to knock back the flames. I waited with my Captain for orders. The initial crew grabbed a 1 3/4" line and protected the neighbors house from catching on fire. While all this was going on another crew had shown up and grabbed the 2 1/2" attack line and started outside attack on the garage. About this point part of the roof of the garage collapsed.
As firefighters we learn the science behind fighting fire. A lot of people may think that it's as simple as "putting wet stuff on the red stuff" but there's more to it. If it's done incorrectly we could fail to put out the fire, spread the fire, burn people inside, collapse buildings or cause a lot of water damage. The best way to put out a fire is to get up close to where you can see the "seat of the fire" and put water on it. It takes a surprisingly small amount of water to put out a fire when it can be attacked in the correct way.
While we were waiting for our orders I noticed that even though we had thousands of gallons a minute flowing into this garage all it did was keep the major flames down. The fire was still going strong in the sheltered areas where the deck gun and other hose lines could not reach from the exterior of the building. My Captain was ordered to grab his crew and to get ready for interior attack through the front door. I didn't need much encouragement from my Captain. I grabbed the 1 3/4" preconnected attack line off the rear of the engine and went for the front door. Once I was there and masked up I started attacking the fire from the outside while I waited for my crew. As soon as everyone was ready we started to make entry into the house. When the IC (Incident Commander) was informed that we were going in he had all defense operations stopped (mostly the deck gun so that it didn't put us into danger). Walking through the door I could feel enough heat to keep me in a crouch. Visibility was low but not horrible. I walked in the front door and encountered a hallway that went left and right of the entry way. To my right I could see that the fire was no longer contained to just the garage.
I moved down the hallway closer to the fire and gave it some water. It went right out. We then heard the order to evacuate the building. Not what I expected to hear. We quickly, but not without reservation, backed out. From where we were we thought that we were safe. That is one of the reasons that we have an IC who stands back from the incident and watches for what develops. I'm not sure what he saw but he obviously saw something on the outside that made him not want to risk our lives inside so he had us back out for a minute. Once the scene had stabilized we went back in. In just a few minutes we had the fire inside the house under control. What was left of the two cars in the garage would take a little longer to extinguish because of our limited access to the vehicles.
After my crew was finished with interior attack we were assigned to Rehab. We hydrated up and then started helping getting SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) bottles in a cache and swapping them out for the crews that were doing salvage and overhaul. After that we were assigned to check the air quality in the structure with a gas meter. After a fire there are many gases (carbon monoxide is the most common) that are potentially dangerous so we have to monitor them and determine when it is safe to not use our SCBA's. Once it was determined that the gases in the house were within acceptable levels all the crews took off their SCBAs.
Once everything was mopped up we started loading hose. It took about an hour to clean off our equipment and get it back onto the engine. We were cleared from the call and back at our station sometime around 4:30 in the morning. Just in time to get about two hours of sleep.
These were taken a few hours later. That is the garage that was engulfed. The front door that we went into is on the left of the photo. You can also see the damage sustained by one of the cars by the collapsing roof.
The view from the other direction. You can see that the fence got a little charred from the heat. Over all it seemed to me that there was smoke damage in all the rooms and direct fire damage in the hallway, kitchen, family room, living room and dining room.