Mayday Monday: Rescue Options for Basement Fires

Lieutenant Chip McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom of Buffalo Fire Department

This month’s focus is on Buffalo, New York. On August 24, 2009, firefighters were sent to a corner convenience store for smoke coming from the building. When they arrived, they found a mixed-use building with a delicatessen and apartment on the first floor and apartments above with a fire in the basement. A bystander said they heard trapped occupants calling for help. As firefighters began their operations, the heavily fortified doors leading to the basement and deli slowed them down. The added time it took to make entry allowed the fire to attack the building. The decision was made to evacuate the structure and find another way to attack the fire. While searching to ensure all members were out, Buffalo (NY) Fire Department Lieutenant Chip McCarthy fell into the basement. Hearing his Mayday call, Firefighter Jonathan Croom entered to rescue the trapped lieutenant. Unfortunately, both members were killed in the collapse and fire. 

Find out more about this incident in the following links:

NIOSH report:

BFD Report:


Fire Engineering Review: May Their Sacrifices Not Be in Vain: Buffalo (NY) LODDs Case Study

One of the recommendations from the NIOSH report on this incident is this:

Ensure that all personnel are aware of the dangers of working above a fire, especially a basement fire, and develop, implement, and enforce a standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses strategies and tactics for this type of fire.

For years, we here at Mayday Monday have been sounding the alarm on the dangers of fighting basement fires. In this month’s podcast, Former Buffalo Fire Department Commissioner Mike Lombardo continues to emphasize how dangerous these fires can be.  During our discussion, Commissioner Lombardo makes two suggestions related to the rescue of firefighters from the basement:

  1. Find a rescue method that gets the rescued member farther out of the hole. Using the handcuff knot on the forearms leaves most of the body below the hole.
  2. Place a folding ladder near the front door of the fire building just in case.

Watch the full podcast below.

Mayday Monday/YouTube

This month’s skill/drill addresses Commissioner Lombardo’s concern. This alternative to the handcuff knot brings the torso farther out of the hole. It is a review of a previous Mayday Monday. The method is called the “3-Ins.” After reattaching the waist strap of the self-contained breathing apparatus through the crotch of the down firefighter, a bight of rope is laced into three spots:

  1. into the left shoulder strap,
  2. up into the waist strap, and
  3. into the right shoulder strap. 

The bight then gets passed up to the rescue team. Rescuers pull on the ropes, and up comes the rescuee.   

Tony Carroll is a captain/shift commander with the Louisa County (VA) Fire & EMS Department.  


Mayday Monday: Situational Awareness

Mayday Monday: Getting Air to the Down Firefighter

Mayday Monday: Basement Fires: Rescue Options

Mayday Monday: Firefighter Survival and the Basics

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