This is a personal experience of mine. It was the first time that I had ever seen fire inside of a structure after becoming certified as a firefighter. I remember it as if it happened yesterday.
I was sitting around my house when I heard the beeping of my pager going off. Being a volunteer department, each member was issued a pager that would beep whenever there was an emergency. I got up off the couch and started running from my house to the firehouse. In my mind I was thinking that it was most likely just someone that had burnt some food or a false alarm so I wasn’t in too much of a hurry. I was the first to arrive at the station so I opened the doors to the truck bay then turned on the lights. Then I went to get my gear on. While putting my gear on a few more members had arrived and started getting ready themselves. One of these members that had arrived was the lieutenant Mike Lampman.
After getting all of our gear on, we got into the rescue truck and went in route. As we pulled out of the station the police had arrived on scene and had given a report. “on scene reporting two story residential structure, heavy smoke showing division 2 sides A,C and D.” hearing this everyone’s’ adrenaline kicked in. Side A refers to the address side of the residence. Side B is the side to the left of A and so on. Division 2 refers to the second floor. Division 1 is the first floor, and the basement or any level below the first floor is subdivision 1, 2, 3 etc.
As we got closer to the scene a header became more and more visible. A header is the column of smoke that can be seen from a fire. The smoke was a dark grey color, which indicated that the fire was still burning strong and hadn’t been attacked yet. When we got on scene Lt. Lampman got out and started to give us our orders as to what to do. I was the last to get my assignment. “Josh, come with me” he said. I followed him to where command was so that we could give them our tags and let them know where we are going. Tags are used to keep track of who is where during a fire. I followed him to the front yard where we stopped to put our air mask on and start flowing air.
Once we had our air packs turned on and working we went onto the front porch and to the door. Using the tools we had we forced the front door open and were immediately forced to our knees. The smoke started pouring out at us. After a few seconds he said lets go, and we began making our way into the house.
Room by room we searched on our hands and knees for any victims or to find where the fire was at. The outside vent team wasn’t too far behind us. As we would finish searching a room they would be breaking the windows to let the smoke out. Mike and I had reached a stairwell that led to the second floor. Looking up the stairs we could see and orange glow. We called command over our portable radios, and told them that the fire was on division 2, side C.
Once we had determined where the fire was, an engine company was sent in to extinguish the flames. Once they were with us we began our ascent up the stairs. The closer we got to the top, the hotter is was. We reached the top of the stairs and went around a corner. We then started down a hallway. The fire had darkened due to the build up of smoke on that floor. As we went down the hallway the orange glow came back. It got brighter and brighter and we could see the fire moving across the ceiling over our heads. We backed away and the engine company moved ahead of us and started to put out the fire.
We did a quick search of the second floor and then had to make out way out. By this time the bells on our air packs were going off to let us know that we were low on air. We made it to the outside and reported to command that we were out and were going to take a rest.
Mike and I took our packs off and sat down in the lawn across the street. The junior firefighters changed the air cylinders on our packs and had brought us some water to rehydrate. We took about a fifteen minute break and then got ready to go back in.
By the time we got all of our gear on and made it back to command the fire was extinguished. Our job now was to go in and make sure that all of the hot spots were taken care of and that nothing could restart the fire. This didn’t take us too long, and soon we were back on the truck returning to the station.
When we got back to the station and cleaned up the tools and air masks that we used Mike took me aside. I will never forget what he said to me that day. “Great job today, Josh.” He said. It may seem like such a simple phrase but the way he said it made it stick in my memory.
That day will always be a vivid memory to me. It was the first time that I had ever seen fire inside of a structure. Unfortunately the house was a total loss due to fire and water damage, but no lives were lost, and that’s the most important part.