PHILADELPHIA – February 19, 2011 (WPVI) — A neighbor heard an explosion. Two men jumped to save their lives in Fairmount. Firefighters responded to the 600 block of North 21st Street early Saturday morning. When they arrived, they encountered flames shooting from the third floor of a rowhome. The porch of the home was also on fire. Two men broke bones when they jumped out of the burning home. A woman in the home escaped unhurt. The fire spread to two adjoining homes before firefighters could contain it. Ten people were left homeless by the fire, no word yet on what sparked it.
I read this story when it first broke but due to a lack of details given by our intrepid local reporters I didn’t give it any more thought. Sometimes even I get tired of fire stories. But today at work I found out the real story behind this job. And it’s ugly. This job happened near where I used to work. In fact my old company was first in at this fire. Unfortunately they were never meant to be first in so far from their station. This is Ladder 01’s former local. Ladder 23 had to respond from their station in Chinatown. Since the Nutter administration CLOSED Ladder 01, Ladder 23 now has to make this run, and it’s a difficult one. It get’s worse. Ladder 09 the second in ladder company was BROWNED OUT this night because of further cutbacks.
Until the Nutter administration’s devastating fire department cuts, Ladder 23 didn’t even go to 21st & Fairmount. Ladder 01 & Ladder 09 did. Now BOTH of those companies were out of the picture when they were most needed. Whats even more horrific is the SECOND IN ladder, the ladder specifically tasked for putting up ladders and making rescues in the REAR of a dwelling fire was Ladder 06. Ladder 06 is at 43rd & Market in WEST PHILLY! The two men who had to jump for their lives are extremely lucky to be alive. They were forced to jump from the rear. They couldn’t wait the TWELVE MINUTES for Ladder 6 to arrive from west Philly.
People jumping from building fires used to be a pretty rare occurrence in Philly. As a fire Department we prided ourselves in getting to an incident scene long before things ever got that bad. Unfortunately jumpers are becoming more and more common. The response times for this job speak volumes about the state of fire protection in Philadelphia today. Also our guys are acutely aware that there are times when peoples lives are in real danger (like this job) and they have the added pressure of driving an emergency vehicle over longer and longer distances without getting into any accidents. If our guys have an accident, no matter how small, they are literally crucified by the department, even though they are trying to save someone from burning to death.
Here are the dispatch times for this fire: