Fire Yenta 1/10/03

By Diane Feldman, Managing Editor

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.

Some things never change
In the April 1944 issue of Fire Engineering, the Roundtable column topic was “prevention of accidents to fire apparatus and personnel.” So many chiefs responded that the topic was covered for two issues of the magazine. In the January and February 2003 issues of Fire Engineering, the Roundtable column topic was “how to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths once and for all.” Participants concurred that one of the top causes of injuries and deaths was accidents involving apparatus and personal vehicles while members go to and from calls.

Lesson: Some things never change-but should!

Quote of the week
In honor of football playoff time, I give you this timely yet appropriate quote from Battalion Chief William Goldfeder, Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department: “As is true of football, I’d say that you can have the best ball team (fire department) in the world with the best-trained players (firefighters), but without excellent, informed, and courageous coaches (chiefs), we will continue to lose.”

Diane Feldman is a 13-year veteran of Fire Engineering; she has spent the past 12 years as managing editor. She has a B.A. in English/communications. Previously she was an editor at the American Management Association in New York City.

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Click here for Fire Yenta–2002

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