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.