Firefighting, Structural Firefighting

Sacramento Near Miss of Four Firefighters

Sacramento (CA) Fire Department Captain Jeff Helvin gave a first-person account of a near-deadly flashover on October 7, 2008, in his class “Sacramento Near Miss of Four Firefighters.” Four firefighters, including Helvin, nearly perished in the fire. Helvin discussed the lessons learned which, according to him, can apply to any structure fire; not just single-family dwelling fires. He presented a PowerPoint presentation that included a helmet cam video shot by one of the on-scene firefighters as well as the incident’s radio traffic audio. “I never thought it would happen to me, but here I was, thrown for a loop,” said Helvin, during his highly emotional talk. After showing bits and pieces of the helmet cam video of the incident throughout the class, Helvin presented the entire 16-minute video to the captivated capacity audience.

After the presentation, Helvin shared his personal thoughts and the intimate details of his physical and emotional injuries. “The incident has changed the way I do things both professionally and personally. We need to slow our culture down. We should never sacrifice safety for speed.” Helvin concluded the presentation describing his postincident hospital stay, and by showing a picture of his two children; reminders of the effects a firefighter’s decisions can ultimately have.

Helvin states, “My approach and the way I look at things are a little different than before the incident; not less aggressive, but better in terms of size-up, knowing the secondary means of egress locations, having a plan for if things go bad, and making firefighter safety procedures a part of my morning check.”