Thank God for firefighters

dwarven1

Lonely Mountain Arms
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This morning when I got up, I thought I smelled something like smoke. But I couldn't find out where it was coming from, and nothing seemed hot (computers, etc), so I shrugged it off.

Until my wife comes pounding on the shower door telling me to get out because the neighbor's house is on FIRE. I told her to call 911 and started getting the shampoo out of my hair as quick as I could; threw on some clothes and ran across the street to try and see if I could wake them up.

I had no idea if Gary and his wife were home or not, but I assumed they were. I could hear the smoke alarm going off, see the smoke pouring out of the roof... I punded on the door and tried the bell. I saw smoke inside. I hit the glass next to the door to try and make a different sound... and smashed the outside pane!

Let me tell you something... when they show the Hero smashing the window on TV, it CAN be done (which surprised the hell out of me when I did it, let me tell you!), and you WILL be picking glass splinters out of your hand when you do it!

Anyway, no answer... thought for about .0001 second of trying to open the door, but realized that with that much smoke, this untrained 45 year old with no breathing apparatus wouldn't last 10 seconds in that environment. I'm not a movie hero... and I'm smart enough to know it.

We looked at the back of the house- no joy - back door area was fully engulfed in flames. Tried Gary's cell phone (I had his number on speed dial as he sometimes plows my driveway in the winter), left a somewhat frantic message (yeah, I know... what was I thinking?).

Then the FD drove up, escorted by two squad cars. First questions were "Is anyone in there?" and "what's the layout of the house like?"

I have nothing but kudos for the MFD. They didn't save the house, but I found out tonight that the fire had started at 3 AM from a faulty light fixture... so it had been going for 2.5 hours by the time we saw it. I don't think God Himself could have stopped it at that point. But they tried.

I had called Gary's company and left a message for their pager... got a call back from the night guy (Gary's son in law, I think) who was pretty shocked to hear that the house was on fire... but he was able to tell me that they were on vaca in California, which I relayed to the firefighters.

The house was a total loss. When Kath got home, the family members were salvaging things from the house. Kath came over to see if she could offer any help, and when they found out who she was ("You're ROSS'S wife???") they gave her a huge hug. (They remembered my name from the call to the company) Apparently, because of when we called, the firefighters stopped the fire before it consumed the records, their geneaology info, a grandfather clock, etc...

One odd thing... When the cop on duty found out that Kath was the one who called 911, he took her name... and wanted her DOB, too. Anyone know why?

Oh, yeah... the call to Gary's cell phone I made? In the silliest punchline to a weird day, I got a call on my way home from my cousin... GARY. "Ross, we got a strange message from you this morning on our answering machine..." Seems that I didn't put my neighbor Gary's number in my new phone, but did put my cousin's in... and didn't put his last name in. [oops] [oops] [oops]

Ross
 
Wow Ross...amazing what a little adreneline will do, huh? Thank heavens they weren't home, and thank heavens you had the sense not to go charging in. It's good that some of their important things were saved.
 
Yea, I think that firefighters are also underpaid.

My father in law is a Lt on his Department. His group is both fire and medic. So he's out a lot.

I give those guys a lot of credit. They will work 24 hour shifts. If there's a fire they might be there for 36-48 in thier turn out gear and not complain a bit.

I'm sorry to hear about your neighbors house. But I'm more glad that they weren't home.
 
Yeah, they were there in less than 5 minutes, I think. that would mean about 2.5 minutes to roll, and 2.5 minute drive. Pretty good for 5:30 in the morning!

And yes, adrenaline is amazing. I'm just glad that my brain didn't shut down completely and let me try to be a cheap movie "hero". Sometimes, discretion IS the better part of valor. They didn't need to be rescusitating a neighbor!

Ross
 
SiameseRat said:
Ross, did you ever know that you're my heeeeeerooooo :D

If I'm ever looking for a next door neighbor, Ross wins, hands down.

[oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops] [oops]

Am I also the wind beneath your... uh... paws? :D

Hey, Kathy was the one who spotted the smoke first - she leaves for work before I do. I was just reacting.

Ross
 
We had a vaguely similar situation a few years back. It was around Christmas, and my in-laws were visiting. We're sitting around one night having a drink, when there's a banging on the door. The woman next door is hysterical, saying that their house is on fire. I have my wife call 911, and get the neighbor to stay with my father-in-law, while I grab my light and go next door. I didn't even think of trying to go in (I know better), but had to practically knock the guy out to keep him from trying to go in with a garden hose.

They'd been out for the evening and came back to find the place solid with smoke. A bad fixture had started smoldering, and it was a damn good thing that I managed to keep the neighbor from opening the door. It would have flashed over in about a half second. There were very few flames, but it was hot enough on the ground floor to melt the drapes, smoke alarms and a lot of furniture.

My youngest brother is a fire Captain out in California. Most of their calls end up being medical emergencies rather than fires, but this time of year things do get "exciting". He's got a regular station now, but back when he was in his 20's & 30's he was with a Forestry Service "hotshot" crew. They only got sent to the really extreme fires, wherever that might be in the US, Canada or Mexico (mutual assistance treaties). Talk about your long days; routine for them was about 20 hours a day on the line, with 4 for input/output and whatever sleep you could get on the ground. He's sometimes keep that schedule up for well over a week straight. I think I'd prefer an NVA batallion after my platoon any day.

Ken
 
Good work Ross!!

One weekend morning in our first apartment (corner apt), as I got up and went to the bathroom, I opened the blinds to look out and saw nothing but a black, sooty sky. I immediately told Deena to get up, get some clothes on and be prepared to bail out with a moment's notice. I threw on some pants and touched our door to the apt . . . it was cool. I gingerly opened the door, sniffed and found nothing. I went to the outside door and did the same, then opened it and saw the apt building behind us engulfed in smoke and flames. Ran back in and called the fire department, then headed out back. I pointed out the closest hydrant to some firefighters and later "suggested" to them that they play a line on a huge propane tank when flames were lapping at the sides of the tank.
 
LenS said:
Good work Ross!!
Then why do Kath & I feel like we could have done something more? Intellectually, I know that even if I'd looked up and saw the smoke out the window when I was in my office sniffing the computer to see if it was the source of the smell, they'd still have been too late to save the house - the fire would have been going for two hours at that time - but we still feel like there must have been something else we could do, if we'd only seen it sooner...

I mean, we really didn't DO anything other than call 911 - there was no one home, so no lives were in danger. Anyone who saw the smoke would have called 911, right?

LenS said:
later "suggested" to them that they play a line on a huge propane tank when flames were lapping at the sides of the tank.
Speaking of stupid things we did... we went around back to where most of the smoke was coming from, and we saw where the fire must have started - the back door area was fully involved. We noticed the grill about 10 feet from the door; I looked at it and started thinking "could it have started there?" and NEVER even thought about the danger from that damned PROPANE TANK. When I came home last night and the daughter and son-in-law were showing me around, they showed me the melted regulator fixture (or the big black plastic nut from it, anyway) on the propane tank and mentioned how close it had been to exploding, I just looked at it dumbly, realizing that I stood less than 10 yards from it that morning... while it was 10 feet from a burning house.
 
Ross, you did the right thing, completely across the board. Nothing to feel guilty about at all.

You didn't have the proper equipment, even if you had the training, so going in wasn't an option. Getting the Fire Department was the priority, and you both did that. Trying to wake the neighbor is another priority, and you did all you could reasonably do there.

How's the hand doing?
 
Just feels like we could have done more - we like our neighbors, and it really sucks for them to have to come home and see a totalled house. I think that the only things not damaged were the detached garage and the fieldstone walls on the front of the house. But I imagine that those will be demo'd, too, in the rebuild. :(

Hand's OK; I hit the window with the meaty part, so once I pulled out the glass it was alright. (another hobby is watch repair, so I had a good pair of tweezers to use! :) )

Ross
 
Don't feel bad Ross. Granted the house was lost, but remember, some of their important stuff was saved, like the clock and the family tree info.
 
OK, when you put it like that... :D

That does give it a little bit of perspective! [lol]

No one was hurt, which is the important thing.

Thanks for the reality checks, you two.

Ross
 
dwarven1 said:
OK, when you put it like that... :D

That does give it a little bit of perspective! [lol]

No one was hurt, which is the important thing.

Thanks for the reality checks, you two.

Ross

The bill's in the mail.

[lol] [lol]
 
Ross, I understand, but if you actually had done more the likelihood would have been that the outcome would have been much worse . . . for you and both families!

As you say, we don't have the gear or training and it's my limited understanding that it is REAL easy to get confused in the smoke and not be able to find your way out to safety. Firefighters, I am told, try to follow the hose back out as one of their techniques (before the NV stuff that actually allows them to see thru the smoke).

Yes, the untrained civilian may not realize the danger from propane tanks, but I was really surprised at the trained firefighters who ignored this 6'x3' tank that was right up against the apt behind me, with flames literally licking the sides of the tank. Meanwhile some 30-40 of us were standing within 10 yards and the back of our apt building was maybe 15 yds away.
 
BTW, one question that I had in my original post has not been addressed, I see. Can any of you LEO's tell me why, when the officer directing traffic on the streed found out that Kathy was the who called 911, he asked for her full name and date of birth?

Just wondering - seemed kind of odd. And Kath said he seemed kind of apologetic for asking, so it sounded like it was some kind of dept policy, maybe? But why?

Ross
 
Good Job Ross!!!!

My parents had a scarey incident earlier this year. They live in one of those "over 50" townhouse communities. Well, one evening, they hear this noise and realize it is the smoke alarm of the unit next to them.

Long story short: Fire dept finds a saucepan on the stove, boiled dry and burning. Condo owners? At the movies and were annoyed that their movie was interruped. (lets not forget that they also had their cell phone on in the threatre, and I doubt it was on 'silent') And now, they are suing the condo association for the smoke damage. I have no idea what their argument is.

Glad your neighbors are at least appreciative!

Because our house is well hidden from even the nearest neighbor, we have one of THESE systems in the house. It's tied to the smoke alarms, intruder sensors, two temp sensors, water detectors, and even a panic button. It's designed to monitor vacation homes. If anything trips, it calls 4 phone numers via a cellphone as well as setting off the house alarm. Best of all, it uses a voice announcement to say what sensor was tripped, etc. Piece of mind when on vacation and the wife loves it when I'm away on business because my cell phone is the first one on the call list.

The down side is that I had to modify pieces to work together and had to solder up my own link to the cellphone (It's designed for plugging into a wall jack) But, basic electronics and the ability to follow schematics off the web was the extent of the work.

All in all, it was about $800 and 2 weekends of work getting it all working. The dedicated cell phone costs like $10 a month on that family share plan. I decided to do the cell phone bit not because of break-ins, but because we've had storms take out electric and phone service a few times. With better protected phone lines, you could save that $10. Still, it's cheaper than a monitoring service and a lot more useful than most systems as you can dial into it for status as well. Even have a microphone I can use to listen to the house.
 
dwarven1 said:
BTW, one question that I had in my original post has not been addressed, I see. Can any of you LEO's tell me why, when the officer directing traffic on the streed found out that Kathy was the who called 911, he asked for her full name and date of birth?

Just wondering - seemed kind of odd. And Kath said he seemed kind of apologetic for asking, so it sounded like it was some kind of dept policy, maybe? But why?

Ross

I'm not LE, however, the only thing I can think of is: Has there been a rash of false calls to the FD? It could be minors making the calls and this is a way for them to validate the caller? I don't know... One would think that getting to the address and seeing a fire would be enough, but I'm at a loss. Was he a young one? Maybe he wasn't sure if he needed the info or not, so that's why he asked. [?]
 
Ross, I'll give your question a stab . . .

For the police report, they need to identify witnesses and anyone involved in case there are any questions later by them, Fire Marshall or insurance company. It is thus standard practice to ask name, address, DOB and oftentimes SSN (I hate this one and refuse). From this info they can find anyone anywhere in the US (in case you move)!
 
Chris said:
Good Job Ross!!!!

I'm going to stop blushing one of these days. [oops] [oops]

And yes, Gary was very appreciative. I talked to him this morning. Poor guy is still pretty much in shock, I think. But at least he's alive. That's the important part.

Chris said:
And now, they are suing the condo association for the smoke damage. I have no idea what their argument is.
Because the condo association was negligent in letting stupid people move into the building?

Chris said:
Because our house is well hidden from even the nearest neighbor, we have one of THESE systems in the house.

I'm very familiar with that unit, Chris! I installed one of those in a brand-new computer room about 2 jobs ago when we kept having trouble with a Liebert AC unit leaking. Put the water sensor on the floor, the temp sensor in the air, and plugged in a relay to let us know if house power went down. Had to run an extension cord to the next room for that one. :)

Nice job on that. It's a great system... had it page me more than once, and as you said, when I called it, it read me what was tripped.

Ross
 
LenS said:
Ross, I'll give your question a stab . . .

For the police report, they need to identify witnesses and anyone involved in case there are any questions later by them, Fire Marshall or insurance company. It is thus standard practice to ask name, address, DOB and oftentimes SSN (I hate this one and refuse). From this info they can find anyone anywhere in the US (in case you move)!

Ross, you did good!

I never ask for the SSN and used to be if we didn't get it, we'd be on the hook for it.
Len sums it up pretty well. A record of all contacts is kept in the dept computer system. Our records are refered to as "master cards". The record has all personal info as well as the reason for the contact.
When I 1st started on the job in '85, we were not computerized. Index cards were used and only on "offenders" and no one else. Once computers came on the scene, the information gathering began. The ultimate goal is at some point to have all systems interconnected so that the info can be shared with all depts. Kinda scary, huh?
 
dwarven1 said:
SiameseRat said:
Ross, did you ever know that you're my heeeeeerooooo :D

If I'm ever looking for a next door neighbor, Ross wins, hands down.

Am I also the wind beneath your... uh... paws? :D


Ross

Yes, it's certainly paws. It's hard to find a gun to fit my furry little mitts...

Actually in reality I have ginormous hands for a woman. Wide palms, long fingers. It makes gun handling a lot easier. It also helps when I play guitar. Hard to find women's gloves that fit, though. But I'm a tomboy anyway so I don't mind men's shoes and gloves (big feet, too).
 
They talked about ya, but didn't have your name.

"The state fire marshal's office provided a rehabilitation unit that supplied air conditioning and cold drinks for the firefighters, Adams said."

That's the Canteen Truck out of Providence, my father-in-law says that that thing is a godsend.

That reports that all the genealogy stuff is gone. But that still sucks. Just think, if you didn't call, it might have spread to more than just thier house. And you might have been calling about thier house and some of the ones around as well.
 
C-pher said:
They talked about ya, but didn't have your name.
I can live without Kath's & my names in the paper... Kath tells me that people have been constantly slowing down as they drive past, and some people were even turning into the driveway to gawk!

C-pher said:
That reports that all the genealogy stuff is gone.
I don't understand; I talked to the family last night and they said that they saved some of it. I suspect that the paper just got it wrong. The dead tree version of the paper said that the FD received "two calls, probably from neighbors". Considering that Kath told the PSAP that she didn't know the address of the house, but that it was across the street from hers, you just know that the reporter didn't hear any tapes. So I'll trust the word of the lady who was trucking stuff out of the house over the paper.

C-pher said:
Just think, if you didn't call, it might have spread to more than just thier house. And you might have been calling about thier house and some of the ones around as well.

Kath made that point to me last night. It's been dry, and they have a huge expanse of lawn, which I don't remember ever seeing get watered, and they have some HUGE trees around the house which could have easily be set on fire. So yeah, it's good we called when we did.

But it still sucks. Poor Gary sounded still in shock this morning when I talked to him on the phone (the right Gary, that is! :)) I really feel for him and his Kathy.
 
SiameseRat said:
<applause for Ross>

Though I do demand a retraction that it was not just "a neighbor" who called. It was our buddy Ross, dammit!

Well... actually, it was your buddy Ross' wife who called the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Position). I just called Gary's company. Don't want to take credit where it's due someone else. :)

Ross
 
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