JAN 2017

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doors shut and blowing out the Bravo wall at the roof line. I thought the crew was gone! Moments later the sounds of painful screams and a transmitted mayday call were the best thing I could have heard. They were alive. I forced the jammed front door open and met the crew as they were exiting the basement. Only a small amount of fire, issuing from the HVAC vents, remained on the first floor. The crew exited the structure and an attack line was pulled by the additional personnel on location. I radioed the communications center for a full structure fire assignment and additional EMS units. On scene, crews and additional units assisted with extinguishing the remaining fire, caring for the injured firefighters and performing the secondary search. Two of our firefighters suffered burns to their hands and ears, the other two firefighters had burns to smaller areas. EMS provided the necessary care, and two fire- fighters were flown to the burn center. The home suffered extensive damage. The path of fire up the basement steps and through the kitchen was evident from the scorched ceiling, walls and the floor. While most of the fire burned out after the initial flash, overhaul revealed smoldering fire and burned materials from the basement to roof trusses. Learning from the experience It was later determined that the natural gas supply line was sepa- rated below the meter and was leaking underground, allowing the gas to enter the structure. The resident had left the house earlier in the morning and was safe. Myers noted that it was his opinion that the house was filled with dangerous gas mixtures well before the arrival of the fire department. It is amazing that the mixture had not found an igni- tion source before the resident left earlier in the morning. Anything could have caused an explosion. A light switch, electronic device cycling on and off, or a static spark were just waiting for the right explosive mixture. Firefighter Jay Ingle had his gloves partially on at the time of the blast. "I took my gloves off once inside to open the windows so we could ventilate along the way," he said. "I couldn't work the latch with my fire gloves on and was actually putting them back on (with one halfway on) when the explosion occurred." Firefighter Ray Boyd was the firefighter with the worst of the burns. The incident really got him thinking, particularly about not taking anything for granted. Boyd had also taken his gloves off to operate window latches. Obviously, not putting the gloves back on was a mistake, but it took awhile to get past thinking it was all his fault. Boyd wants to pass on an important message to other new fire- fighters: Don't think it can't happen to you. And if it does, don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes the injuries are more than just the burns. He also expressed how thankful he was to the brotherhood of the fire service, all the people who came and visited him in the hospital and helped him with his follow-up care and appointments. Boyd is back to full duty and actively running calls again. He is a volunteer and wants to become a career firefighter—and is working toward that. On this particular incident, four of the nine responders were career firefighters in other jurisdictions, which is typical for the area—a nice perk their fire company enjoys, having full-timers as volunteers in their community. Firefighter Mike Cahill had a tiny hole in one of his gloves and suffered burns on his hand as a result. "I must admit, I would have never turned in my gloves for such a tiny hole, but I wasn't even aware of it," he said. The key here: Inspect your gear, and if anything is wrong with it—even a tiny hole—get it fixed, or have it replaced. Cahill further states, "Being in full gear, on air, saved our lives. Searching for an occupant that evidence indicated was home was the right call, in my opinion. Opening all the doors and windows as we went likely kept the house from coming down on top of us. Even us having clean gear played a role." CLOSE CALLS Charred gear shows the power of the explosion. Photos Courtesy of AFC Request information at e-inquiry Firefighter Cahill had a small hole in one of his gloves and suffered burns on his hand. 28 l Firehouse l January 2017

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