Was That Quick Enough For You?


By Diane Feldman

Was that quick enough for you?

The first-due chief was around the corner from a commercial establishment, about a block away, when the alarm came in for a response to the facility. The chief arrived in around 18 seconds, as the office workers were evacuating the building.

One woman flirted and smiled at him. The chief walked up to her and said, “How’s that for a response time?”

She replied, “For what you people get paid, you SHOULD get here fast!”

The chief of the all-volunteer department thought of his meager clothing allowance and his volunteer status and just shook his head.

Know before you go

Members of Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue were called to an explosion and fire in a one-story residence. They saw heavy fire on arrival and could see there had been an explosion. Glass and window frames were out in the street, and there were spot fires all over the front yard caused by partially burned videotapes that had been thrown by the explosion.

The engine company could not get in the front door—and they were a well-trained, experienced company. They went in through a window and were shocked to discover that it wasn’t a body that was blocking their access through the front door.

Apparently the homeowner was the neighborhood “pervert.” He had thousands of X-rated videos. He stacked them all over the living room, soaked them with gasoline, went into the bedroom, ignited them using a fuse, and then committed suicide.

The reason the engine could not get in the front door was that there was a huge pile of flaming black “goo” from the burning video cases and film that had been saturated with gasoline.

Check vitals—and gender!

From Michael Ciampo, FDNY: We were called to the scene of a female overdose patient. Finding a woman lying on a floor with a needle stuck in her arm happens to most EMS workers every now and then. We began our size-up. When the paramedics arrived to start the Narcan dosage, they began a sternum rub to get a response from the patient. One of the medics looked at me and said, “Here, he doesn’t need this toilet paper in his chest area anymore.” With a stunned look, I asked, “HE?” “Yes,” the paramedic replied. “HE.”

Lesson: Size-up–it can really play tricks on you!

That’s not a window!

New Jersey firefighters arrived at a working house fire and stretched hoselines to the first floor, where they were met with a heavy smoke condition. The smoke condition was hampering their search for the seat of the fire. The interior crew radioed Command to get a vent in place immediately. Losing patience, the interior attack team members decided to do their own horizontal vent. One member found a window (or so he thought) and blindly cleared it out with a tool. The sound of glass breaking was a welcome one to his comrades. However, the smoke still was not clearing. Later it was determined that the glass the member broke was from a china closet rather than a window! 

Firefighter flambé

Florida firefighters responded to a fire in a liquor warehouse. The large warehouse, with storage racks 25 feet high, was packed with stock for the holidays. As the boxes of liquor on the shelves ignited and burned, the bottles fell to the floor, and the liquor ignited on the floor. The members were standing in knee-high flames, like a flambé!

During overhaul, members were not as careful as they should have been. They withdrew hoselines to facilitate overhaul operations with forklifts—which could themselves be ignition sources! Members also tried to overhaul on both sides of the storage racks and ended up pushing materials on each other. There were running vodka spill fires everywhere. It was a mess!


1. Forklifts are not intrinsically safe for overhaul.
2. You can have a good alcohol fire going without any visible flame. Burning alcohol produces a bluish flame, so the fire can become fairly advanced without personnel noticing.
3. You have to have a plan when overhauling and be cautious.
4. You must understand the type of stock you are overhauling.

Image found on Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Batholith.




The Yenta
Diane Feldman, a 21-year veteran of PennWell Corp., is executive editor of Fire Engineering and conference director of FDIC. She has a B.A. in English communications. She has been a yenta (look it up) for most of her life. If you have a story for the Yenta, e-mail dianef@pennwell.com.

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