By Bobby Halton
Fire Engineering Editor-in-Chief
I wanted to share a conversation I had recently with Chief Jim Greeson of the Indianapolis (ID) Fire Department (IFD), which had had a fire at its repair shop involving one of its rigs. While discussing this incident, Jim told me that he was disappointed that the International Code Council (ICC) proposal to include home sprinklers in one- and two- family new construction was defeated. Sprinklers installed in the IFD repair shop saved the IFD more than two million taxpayer dollars.
The damage to the shop was limited because of a sprinkler system that helped contain the fire as crews forced entry to attack the burning rig. Chief Greeson said the fire also could have taken out every other piece of equipment in the shop at the time: three engines and an aerial. The loss of this shop would have made life for the IFD difficult and would have cost the city a considerable sum to replace. The mechanics’ tools and equipment, some of it specialized and some of it personal, were also at risk.
I was very impressed that the IFD was prepared for this. I have been in many fire department shops that are not equipped with sprinklers. Is your firehouse sprinklered? Are you considering a retrofit? I don’t remember ever working in a firehouse equipped with sprinklers, but now that is changing for the better. It isn’t easy to get everything right the first time, but eventually things can be righted. The fight over residential sprinklers is not over either—that’s a good thing.
Fulton County LODD
I re-read the story of the Fulton County (GA) Fire Department firefighter and Desert Storm veteran who died while serving his county. Firefighter Felix Roberts, 41, died trying to save a man inside a burning home Memorial Day morning. The resident, John Callahan, also died in the blaze, and two other firefighters were injured.
The fire was in a new city outside Fulton County that does not yet have an established department. The report tells of a Mardi Baumann, 50, who escaped with her dog and ran to a neighbor’s home for help. She informed her neighbors and responding crews that her fiancé, John Callahan, 57, was trapped inside. Prior to Fulton County’s arrival, neighbors ran into the house but heavy smoke and heat forced them out.
Firefighter Felix Roberts was involved with his crew searching for life–John Callahan’s life–when the house flashed. Firefighters pulled Captain Wayne Gilliard and Captain Anthony Avery, injured but alive, out the home. Our thoughts go out to Felix’s family and the brothers and sisters of Fulton County for their loss and speedy recovery to the injured firefighters.
Residential firefighting is becoming riskier as fire behavior in these buildings becomes increasingly dynamic and volatile. The same eerie scene was nearly repeated as two Minneapolis firefighters (as seen on this online video) did a headfirst slide down a ladder from a second-story window to escape an impending flashover in a two-story home. The first firefighter is seen leaving the window headfirst before the ladder is raised; thankfully, quick work on the ground got the ladder to him in time. The second firefighter is more interesting to look at: He is not wearing an SCBA at all. Did he drop it to escape or enter the building without it?
We lost another brave Boston firefighter: David A. Middleton, 38, died of an apparent heart attack following his tour. David responded to multiple calls during his regular tour on Sunday, May 28. He said he wasn’t feeling good after returning from a second fire, but stayed on until the end of his shift.
Another Boston firefighter is in intensive care being treated for severe smoke inhalation after he ran into a working house fire in Hyde Park while off-duty to search for reported victims. Firefighter Glenn Preston ran in because he thought there were people trapped, but everyone had already made it out of the house.