Excerpt: Fire Scene Discipline: True Stories of Close Calls

May 31st 2024

Excerpt: Fire Scene Discipline: True Stories of Close Calls

Never Enter the Fire Area Without Water

Engine 179 received a phone alarm near midnight for a fire in a private dwelling. They responded to an affluent, remote part of the city, which meant they would-be operating by themselves for a while. The quiet tree-lined street had no indication of anything happening. Danny caught a faint whiff of something burning, and he had a feeling they had a working fire; it just wasn’t apparent at the moment.

Fire Scene DisciplineThe building was a two-story flat roof private dwelling. He threw his mask on his back and headed toward the house, while the rest of his crew stayed by the back step in preparation to stretch a 1. in. houseline. He forced the front door pretty easily with his officer’s tool.  After 9 years on the job, he had gotten pretty good at forcible entry. It was one of the things he missed about being a firefighter. In his department, officers supervised firefighters and didn’t get involved in the hands-on work.

It was one of the transformations from firefighter to officer that hadn’t fully sunk in yet. This was an exception because there was no ladder company in yet to force the door. He could see the glow at the top of the stairs. He ordered his crew to stretch the houseline to the front door, knowing that the department had a strict policy to “never enter the fire area without water.” An entire private dwelling is considered part of the fire area.

Climbing the stairs, he eventually found a fire contained to the bedroom only. Danny ordered the chauffeur, “Engine 179 to chauffeur, give us water in the line as soon as it’s at the front door.” He made a quick dash past the bedroom off to the left of the stairs to check out the rest of the second floor. Luckily there was no one home, so he returned to the stairs and headed down to get his crew. He thought that this was going to be a great experience for his young nozzle team.

Danny and the young firefighters were getting anxious. He couldn’t imagine what could be causing any delays. They had recently inspected the hydrants on the street in this neighborhood and apparently no one was vandalizing them in this part of the city. If you looked like you didn’t belong in the area, the residents would let you know in no uncertain terms that you weren’t welcome, a far cry from any neighborhood watch where Danny worked as a firefighter.

Danny called again with a little more forcefulness in his voice, “Engine 179 to chauffeur, gimme water,” and then, after a brief silence, he got this response: “I’m not on a hydrant.” Danny replied, “That’s okay, just gimme a booster,” which was again met with silence. The lieutenant returned up the stairs to see what was happening, thinking, “Maybe I can get the door closed; if only we could get some water in that line, we could knock the fire out.”