A Wake-Up Call by ProQuest


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									                         GUEST COMMENTARY                                                            >>>

                                                                                                                      A Wake-Up Call
       ire Prevention Week for 2009 held more promise                Disaster nearly struck when the engine company           airpacks were cleaned, inspected and placed back into
       than just about any other one that I can recall        crew approached the dorm room mock-up to extinguish             service. Only the one Nomex hood and glove that our
       over my career. There were the detailed plans          the blaze. At this point, approximately five minutes            officer was wearing was not usable. Both were “dis-
for many demonstration events and a lot of additional         after ignition, the room reached flashover. The rapidly         sected” by our Safety Office to determine whether they
work hours. There were many television appearances            spreading flame front across the ceiling set the entire         performed satisfactorily, in that this was the one where
over the weekend, early-morning ones as well to talk          contents of the mock-up on fire. This was the point for         the second-degree burns occurred. Our safety chief,
about our city’s fire prevention activities. The extra        the attack crew to extinguish the blaze.                        Deputy Fire Chief William Flint, is conducting an investi-
effort seemed to be worth it to get very important                   As the officer and two firefighters advanced the         gation to help us learn from our mistakes. Look for this
information out to our community. There were, how-            hoseline toward the mock-up, all seemed to go well at           report to be added to our website soon or obtain a copy
ever, several major setbacks that would surprise and          first. The fire was being knocked down and it seemed to         by contacting him at william.flint@dc.gov.
dampen the spirits of many in the department.                 be so routine, until the crew neared the opening of the
       As final preparations were being made for the          prop. A makeshift “draft curtain” (a device to collect heat     Personal Reflections
annual fire prevention celebration, the department            and smoke to cause automatic fire protection systems to                This was a very difficult day for me, both person-
responded to a rowhouse fire late one afternoon. The          function) was added to the front roof line of the mock-         ally and professionally. I need to state that I take full and
first-in engine arrived just a few minutes after dispatch     up to retain the heat and smoke to allow the protection         complete responsibility for everything that happened
to report heavy smoke showing from the roof. Engine           devices to function properly. The draft curtain was a           during this fire prevention demonstration. Our members
Company 5 moved in with a 1½-inch attack line to              thin sheet of Plexiglas material. The Plexiglas sheet had       engaged in extinguishing activities performed properly
extinguish the room and contain the fire, while Truck         begun to liquefy and drip burning hydrocarbon material          and within our protocols. In fact, I am deeply in the ser-
Company 2 vented and laddered the home.                       on the attacking crew. Within seconds, the three mem-           geant’s debt. He insisted that all members properly use
       Minutes after the fire was located and attacked,       bers were on fire. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! To     their gear and because of his actions, the injuries were
the companies made the discovery of an elderly                add to a very difficult situation was the fact that the three   very minor. I express my appreciation to our Community
woman who perished in the blaze. The fire is under            members were not aware that they were burning. This             Relations and Public Education Division for doing a great
investigation, with the likely cause being improperly         is a great testimony to having the best turnout gear and        job with the demonstration preparation and execution.
discarded smoking materials. This situation may be            wearing it correctly; however, my guys were burning and                So, you are asking, what failed and caused such
the 17th fire fatality for the Nation’s Capital (currently    they didn’t seem to react to impending disaster.                a graphic near miss? I would submit to you that simple
the death is undetermined, awaiting the city medical                 The flames were on their upper torso and helmets         every
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