Chief Billy Goldfeder, E.F.O.
Fire Engineering Contributing Editor
Battalion Chief, Loveland-Symmes Fire Department, Ohio
I don't discriminate between career, volunteer, paid, part-paid, on-call, poorly paid, or whatever other types of fire departments you can think of. There are fire departments at all levels--from excellent to the ones you shake your head about. Much has been written about the various volunteer fire departments in Prince George's County, Maryland, over the years. The Prince George's Fire Department and the volunteer departments that are the core of the service are amongst the busiest in the nation; working structure fires are a normal, daily occurrence. You have probably read about the "career" and "volunteer" issues as well. Do they have problems in Prince George's County? Sure, they do. We have problems at our fire department, and you have them in yours. None of us are immune to the BS that exists in every fire department. And, it can be especially tough when career firefighters and volunteers are mixed in the same station.
However, how each of our fire departments (career or volunteer) performs when the public needs us is the "test" of "what kind" of fire department a community has.
This is a story about Prince George's Morningside Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) and how it made a rescue-and then "rescued" the family a second time. Thanks to the MVFD for the details.
At approximately 4:50 p.m. on April 5, Morningside's Squad 27 (heavy rescue company) was on the street when the members were flagged down by citizens reporting a fire. The squad arrived on the scene with heavy fire on the first floor of the townhouse. There were reports that two small kids were trapped in a second-floor bedroom.
Volunteer Lieutenant Paul Burley and volunteer Firefighter John Lyon entered the townhouse while career Technician Brian Collins assisted Engine 292, which responded with two personnel only. Collins and Station 27's career Captain Jimmy Strain, who was working overtime at Co. 29, advanced an attack line to the front door.
Volunteer Firefighter Donald Belfield threw a ground ladder to the second-floor bedroom window to allow for a second means of escape. Burley and Lyon (without a line) advanced up the stairs to the second floor. They located a five-year-old male and a three-year-old male in the bedroom. The fire from the first floor traveled up the stairs, trapping both firefighters on the second floor. Strain and Collins advanced an attack line to the stairs and knocked down the fire, allowing Burley and Lyon to remove the children from the townhouse.
Both boys were in full cardiac arrest; CPR was started. The boys were
transported by ground to the hospital.
In addition to the two kids, their two-year-old brother and their 61-year-old grandmother were also in the townhouse. The two-year-old escaped injuries; the grandmother suffered serious burns and was transported by Maryland State Police Helicopter to Washington Burn Center, where she is in critical condition.
Sadly, the five-year-old, Jaquan Diggs, died. His three-year-old brother and grandmother remain in critical condition. In addition to Jaquan, the Diggs family consisted of his father, his mother, two sisters, three brothers, and the grandmother. The fire destroyed the Diggs' home and all their belongings.
The crew of the squad (career and volunteer members) did their job that day and rescued the two little boys.
As many of us do, MVFD members followed up to see how the other family members were doing in the hospital. As a result, they learned that the family could not afford to pay for Jaquan's burial.
So what did the MVFD do next? It initiated the "second rescue": The members came to the aid of the Diggs' family a second time by paying for the entire burial cost for that little boy, easing just a bit of the incredible pain the Diggs family had endured in the past weeks--and maybe even some of their own. Thanks to the efforts of Prince George's Morningside firefighters, Jaquan Diggs was properly buried yesterday on April 17. Dozens of firefighters from the MVFD attended the funeral. Morningside Engine 271 led the funeral procession.
One heck of a job, huh? I didn't want this story to get hidden among all the other stuff we write or read about. While people are worrying about who gets what money from which grant, while we worry about weapons of mass destruction, while we wait for the "experts" to develop fire radios that just might work on the fireground, and while we continue to fight for decent staffing on the first alarm, firefighters like those in Morningside just keep doing the job.
These brothers and sisters, the volunteer and career members involved, are not only heroes in the sense that they, at great personal risk, saved several lives that day but also because they made a difference, after the run, by saving the "dignity" of a family who was experiencing a true-to-life nightmare.
If you would like to forward your comments to the firefighters involved, go
to www.morningsidevfd.com and let them know how you feel. Record your comments in their guest book. Those involved deserve credit on this one!