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By WILLIAM GOLDFEDER
Mayday at Single-Family-Dwelling Fire
Part 1 – Self-Rescue Results in Lives Saved, But With Lessons Learned
n Nov. 21, 2009, two firefighters
who comprised the interior attack
Photos by Fire Marshal Kelly Brooks/WRFD
crew from the Wheat Ridge, CO,
Fire Department became trapped and initi-
ated a Mayday while operating on the inte-
rior of a fire in a single-family dwelling.
The Mayday was transmitted in response
to an increasing lack of visibility, uncon-
trolled growth of fire conditions within the
room, a loss of the primary means of egress
and the lack of necessary equip-
ment to extinguish the fire. The
two firefighters eventually ex-
ited the structure under emer- Above: Firefighters encountered a room-and-contents fire
gency conditions via a window in the southeast bedroom on the Alpha side of the residence.
in the room of origin and with Left: This bedroom window was used by the firefighters for emergency
the assistance of firefighters on egress after they declared a Mayday when conditions deteriorated
the exterior of the structure. The rapidly.
two members of the attack team became anything but. Their willingness to share their story lets
and a firefighter working on the all of us apply their lessons learned, instead of repeating history.
exterior of the structure sus- The Wheat Ridge Fire Department (WRFD) is a combina-
tained minor injuries and were tion department with a volunteer membership of approximately
transported to a hospital. All 100 personnel and a career administrative staff of six personnel.
three firefighters were treated The department staffs two stations and covers an area of about
and released from the hospital the night of the incident. 9.5 square miles with a population of 29,000. In March 2002, fu-
From time to time, readers of this column inquire about eled by a desire to provide unsurpassed emergency services, the
more thorough details about some of the close calls. You will WRFD initiated a program that would better manage its volun-
note that in this fire, we do have very detailed information, teer resources. This program requires firefighters to sign up for
which is not always the case. Readers are encouraged to review shifts and these shifts are operated out of the two stations. This
all the details due to the fact that, as is often the case, many close was a significant change to the volunteer system of old, but in a
calls are a combination of several seemingly non-critical factors very short period, the merits of this shift program were evident.
leading up to the incident, as opposed to one specific factor. Today, the WRFD is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a
These details and especially the ones in this close call provide a week, 365 days a year with around 100 firefighters responding
great opportunity for you to “dissect” the run and apply the in- out of both firehouses. The department is updating and expand-
cident and the lessons learned to your own departments during ing its standard operating procedures (SOPs) and developing
training as well as policy development. Keep in mind, that these standard operating guidelines (SOGs). Our sincere thanks to
firefighters, like us, thought they were responding to a seem- Chief Steven Gillespie and the members of the Wheat Ridge
ingly “bread-and-butter/routine” house fire that within seconds Fire Department, West Metro Fire Rescue and Pridemark Para-
medic Services for their willingness to share their story in the
WILLIAM GOLDFEDER, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the
fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO interest of firefighter survival.
Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982,
has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissio