Stillwater NewsPress, Okla.
May 4—The Stillwater City Council issued a proclamation Monday honoring members of the Stillwater Fire Department for rescuing a resident whose home burned last October.
According to the proclamation’s narrative, SFD crews from Truck 3, Truck 1, Engine 1, Engine 2 and the Battalion Chief responded to a house fire on Wilham Drive around 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 to find flames showing from the back of the house and heavy smoke pouring from the eaves and vents. They were told there were possibly two people trapped inside.
“…the crew of Truck 3 immediately went into search-and-rescue operations and Capt. Connelly of Truck 3 was alerted by two occupants that a person was trapped in a room on the west side of the structure with heavy smoke coming from the window … Truck 3 deployed the pre-connected attack line and Capt. Connelly attempted to enter the window to locate the victims but was unsuccessful due to heavy smoke conditions. With fire advancing and conditions worsening, the decision was made to enter the structure with an attack line to attempt to locate and rescue the victim.”
Battalion Chief David McGuire explained that Capt. Greg Connelly made the initial attempt to get in, but with more crews coming, Connelly made the decision to take his crew inside with a hose line and, by putting themselves between the fire and the bedroom where the woman was located, give other crews the best chance to rescue her.
When Truck 1 arrived, it’s crew members were directed to the west window to assist with search and rescue.
By that time, SFD had been told there was only one person in the home.
“I believe they had heard noises and the occupants were saying, ‘She’s right inside that room,'” McGuire said.
When searching for victims in a structure fire, firefighters often find themselves dealing with heavy smoke that takes away all visibility. They are trained to stay near the floor where the temperature is lower, and where victims are usually found.
They are most often conducting their searches by feel while on their hands and knees, in blackout conditions.
Firefighter Erving Altomirano entered through the window on the west side, where they had been told the victim was trapped, but heavy smoke prevented him from finding her.
“Firefighter Altomirano just wasn’t able to locate her,” McGuire said. “She was under a chair. The conditions were pitch black.”
Firefighter Sonny Stafford then entered the window to make another attempt, and found the victim under the chair. He was able to lift the woman out the window to other crew members from Truck 1.
McGuire emphasized that the response and rescue took a team effort.
Stafford and Altomirano, who accepted the commendation on behalf of everyone, are fairly new to the department.
“Credit goes to everyone, it’s not one single person … but they were the ones that were able to enter the structure and Firefighter Stafford was the one that was able to get her out,” he said. “…We were just very fortunate that we were able to find them. … It was a credit to all of them, because without the guys doing their job and attacking the fire, it would have made it much more difficult.”
“The selfless actions of Stillwater firefighters afforded the victim the best opportunity for survival,” Mayor Will Joyce wrote in the proclamation, which honored all the units and crew members who responded to the fire.
McGuire said the victim did survive.
“It was a wonderful situation, and thank goodness it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “But when it does, we know how our guys will perform, and without hesitation.”
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