By Joe Pronesti
“He was a very positive, aggressive firefighter…a typical Irish Catholic South Side firefighting kid,” Grabowski said. “We are grateful to have had him for the time that we (did).”
The above quote was from Homewood (IL) Fire Chief Bob Grabowski’s description of Brian Carey, who lost his life in a fire in this small Chicago suburb more than six years ago. If you Google this event, you will see that much has been written about it, but the fire is still not known to many. In my opinion, more need to know about it and learn from this tragedy.
Firefighter Carey lost his life in a flashover that also claimed the life of the elderly resident and seriously injured a fellow firefighter. We all have responded to a working fire with “reported people trapped.” Our adrenaline starts to pump and minds race as we respond. But this is also the time for us to really focus in on what is happening, be fully situationally aware and perform at a high level. To perform, one must be fully engaged and trained physically and mentally prior to the fire. One way to prepare is to read as much as you can. Study NIOSH reports like this one and share. Do not get caught up in debates or challenge others as to what’s “new” or modern etc., but focus on gaining knowledge and getting better.
From the U.S. Fire Administration, Firefighter Carey was on duty when he and his crew were dispatched to a residential structure fire. Law enforcement officers on the scene reported a working fire with a person trapped inside. When firefighters arrived on scene, they found a large home with an obvious working fire to the rear. Firefighter Carey and two other firefighters advanced a 2-1/2-inch hoseline through the front door of the home. Once inside, they found heavy black smoke about four feet off of the floor. As the line was advanced, the smoke level dropped to knee-level. Firefighters conducting search activities observed fire advancement and yelled to the hoseline crew to evacuate. Once firefighters exited, they found that Firefighter Carey and another firefighter were still in the structure. Fire conditions inside had changed dramatically. The other firefighter was able to make it to within a few feet of the door as he was pulled from the structure by other firefighters. Firefighters entered the structure with a hoseline to search for Firefighter Carey. He was found wrapped up in the ruptured 2-1/2-inch handline and was not wearing his facepiece, hood, or helmet. Firefighter Carey was removed from the building. Once outside, Firefighter Carey was treated by other firefighters and transported to the hospital by ambulance. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. At autopsy, the carboxyhemoglobin level in Firefighter Carey’s blood was found to be 30 percent. Firefighter Carey had been wearing his face piece when he entered the structure. It is unknown why he removed his equipment. The 87-year-old occupant of the home also perished in the fire. Firefighter Carey was the first LODD in the 109-year history of the Homewood Fire Department.
I want to thank the Homewood Fire Department and especially Deputy Chief Steve DeJong, who I met in 2015 at FDIC after a Big Room presentation on this event. Chief DeJong did something that not many chiefs willingly do, namely share and be open to helping others. To honor Firefighter Carey, please review and share this program based on the NIOSH report, with audio, video, and pictures from the scene.
Be safe and read, read, read.
JOSEPH PRONESTI is a 26-year veteran of the Elyria (OH) Fire Department, where he is an assistant chief and shift commander. He is a graduate of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Executive Officer program and a lead instructor at the Cuyahoga (OH) County Community College Fire Academy. He is a contributor to fire service publications and sites, including Fire Engineering. He will be presenting a four-hour preconference classroom at FDIC International 2016 titled “Main Street Tactics and Strategies: Are You Ready?” He can be reached at [email protected]
Originally ran on April 15, 2016.