JUNIATA PARK – December 19, 2010 (WPVI) — A fire in Philadelphia’s Juniata Park section has displaced fifteen people and sent one infant to the hospital.  The fire broke out at 10:45 a.m. at a home on the 3800 block of Elsinore Street. First responders reported heavy fire showing from one townhouse. The fire was brought under control in about 10 minutes, but not before damaging several homes – displacing three families. Medics transported a 10-month-old child to CHOP with first-degree burns. The infant was stable at time of transport. No other injuries were reported. One pet perished in the fire. The Red Cross is assisting the families to find temporary shelter, clothing and food. There is no word on what may have sparked the blaze. LINK

Sundays are USUALLY quiet around the firehouse. It’s a day that we like to catch up on our never-ending paperwork, take care of our equipment and clean the station. Nothing much ever happens on Sundays…

Except when the Chief needs to fill in for the Deputy Chief. That means I have to fill in for the Chief, and one of my guys has to fill in for me. See where this is going? It has all the ingredients for a Zombie Apocalypse. Or a monster fire. In this case it was an a** kicking fire. With three of us wearing different hats today, everyone was predicting the worst. Well at about 10:30 this morning things got real hairy, real fast. There has been at least a half-dozen serious fires around the city in the last 36 hours. There was also another fire death. Today we had our go at it.

When I heard the alarm come in we were at the far opposite end of the local at Ladder 16’s station doing the rounds. The address had to be about two miles away. Ironically it was only a few blocks from my station. Our engine was on location by the time we were halfway there and they reported heavy smoke throughout this middle of the row dwelling.

Filling in for the Chief is both good and bad. The bad is that I haven’t done it in about a year. This is the first time I had to since I transferred in to my present company. So it is easy to forget a lot of the small details of the job. Things change and it can be really a pain in the a**. You end up wasting a lot of time on small things and its constant administration. On the other hand its intense being in charge of a fireground. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility when guy’s lives are at risk.

So when we pulled up in front of this ugly fire I was going a hundred miles an hour in an instant. This was a basement fire and an intense one at that. The fire got into the walls thanks most likely to a broken gas line and spread upward to the roof. We ended up with about nine companies in service, that’s a lot. On a couple of occasions we had to back companies out because of the difficulty maneuvering through the heavy black smoke and intense fire. There were also concerns about the structural integrity of the floors. Back out, knock the fire down and then regroup and go back in. After an intense firefight the guys got the upper hand but it was a long hard slog.

You would think when the media reports on a story like this they could at least get the details right. There are no “Townhouses” in Juniata. In Philly we call them “Rowhouses”. To most Philadelphians that means something. Townhouses are for Yuppies. Some of the other details are also sketchy: I don’t know anything about a baby being burned. It’s possible that someone was transported before or after my arrival but no one told me anything about that. I also don’t know about fifteen people being displaced. I was told it was about five. Again I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am given the fact that Channel 6 also reported this fire was in “East Falls” on their nightly broadcast. East Falls is about five miles away from this location. But again it was pretty chaotic there for a while and things sometimes get overlooked. We did find a dog in the upstairs bathroom and sadly the dog didn’t make it. As for ten minutes and under control? Try at least an hour with another hour of overhaul after that.

Because of the intensity and size of the fire when my boss got there he assumed command. That means I go inside to oversee the interior operation. When you have good firefighters it makes your job easy and in my battalion they are as good as they get. Despite being a total burn out and a natural-gas fueled fire, they never gave up. Some guys used two air bottles. The people on the rest of the block will never know how hard these firefighters worked to save their houses and their Christmas. They will never know how much I worried about the fire spreading through the roofline and about the guys on the floor above the fire.

That’s the story that the real “reporters” missed.


11 Responses to SHOP TALK

  1. John says:

    Reporting the fire under control in 10 minutes gives the public the impression that the company closures and brown outs you’re enduring are having no effect on fire suppression. Sometimes I’d swear the media outlets are on the city’s payroll.

  2. Crusty says:

    Cap, if memory serves me report of a dwelling fire Sunday morning between 8-11 AM you got a job

  3. Spock says:

    “Sundays are USUALLY quiet around the firehouse. “</blockquote.

    Wasn't Gamble & Huff on a Sunday? I'm just saying…

  4. Randall: I don’t know where they got their information but no one with any authorization told them ten minutes. The fire was almost ten minutes old by the time I got there and raged for an hour easily. Everyone including the neighbors could have told you that. It seems like more sloppy reporting to me. Maybe they told them an hour and ten minutes and they missed the hour. In any event common sense can tell you looking at the scene it takes longer then ten minutes to put out a fire that destroys a large house. It takes longer than ten minutes to order a hoagie. But if you don’t give a shit about your job of giving ACCURATE information to the public and just phone in your reporting then you put out a crappy product. I’m quite sure noone told them we were in East Falls either but they said that on their broadcast report. I’m sure my guys all knew we were in Juniata.

    Spock / Crusty: Funny while we don’t often get sunday jobs when we do they are ass kickers.

    • Wyatt Earp says:

      Probably sloppy reporting. The media calls our division all the time, but it’s usually an intern or a producer – rarely a reporter. We give them as many facts as we can – because we’re ordered to do so – and they drop the ball more often than the Giants. We had a fatal pursuit on Sunday night, and had no idea why the officers were pursuing the suspects – despite the fact that we specifically told them they were armed with a pistol and carrying drugs and a bundle of money.

      That was probably the case here. They probably didn’t have an actual reporter out there, so they had some intern or cameraman make a guess-timate.

  5. Robin says:

    The “townhouse” reference made me think “huh!” I grew up in Juniata and we definately lived in row homes and were proud of it. Kudos to you and your company – the whole block could have went up if you didn’t care so much ! I for one, appreciate the PFD and all you do 🙂 Merry Christmas.

  6. egipitian says:

    I live two doors down from where the fire took place and my children and I had to evacuate due to the severity of the fire and could not come back for two hours. I appreciate the the PFD for all their hard work because if not for them working so hard my house would have been lost too.

    • I am glad you and your family are ok and that no one was hurt. I did some checking last night at work when we went over the fire. (We usually review incidents informally to see what went right or wrong etc.) No one else knew anything about an infant being transported to the hospital by PFD medics. Also the news report of fifteen people being “Displaced” is misleading.
      In the fire department we look at “Displaced” people as those who can’t go home because the property is destroyed. Those who can are “Evacuated” like you and your family were until it is safe to do so. For us these are significant terms as they carry specific meanings. Like I said- sloppy reporting.

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