A row house fire in South Philly left five firefighters hospitalized Thursday. The fire broke out just after 5 p.m. on the 2000 block of S Garnett Street. The blaze was under control after about 30 minutes but at a cost. Five firefighters were hurt and taken to local hospitals. Some of the injured firefighters suffered smoke inhalation while others suffered shock injuries possibly from a wire falling onto standing water, fire officials said. LINK
Firefighting is a team sport as they say. We work in small groups to accomplish a series of specific tasks that when combined allow us to get the upper hand on an emergency. Each unit has a specific task: the engine companies stretch hoses and get water on the fire. The ladder companies open up the structure, put up ladders and search for victims. Our Medics stand by ready to receive the injured and rush them to trauma centers. Firefighting (and emergency management in general) is a highly coordinated, complex profession that depends on many elements to come together to ensure a positive outcome. That’s one where everyone goes home safe and innocent lives are saved.
One of our most common of our emergencies, average house fires are some of the most intense. That’s because you are in extremely close proximity to the fire, in confined, cramped spaces, usually unable to see or maneuver. That is where the bulk of our injuries and civilian deaths occur. There are so many ways you can get injured in firefighting that it is almost a given that you will even though we do everything we can to do our job safely. It’s the nature of the beast.
Cuts, burns, strains, sprains, falls, joint blowouts, bruises, being hit by or crushed by falling objects or debris, exposure to toxic / carcinogenic smoke even getting electrical shocks are what firefighters can expect over the course of their career. That’s apparently what happened on this job last night in South Philly.
I worked for years in South Philly. The streets are ridiculously small and difficult to maneuver through. The parking is abysmal. The row houses are shoe box small and densely packed. Everything is harder by half there. So it is no surprise that in the course of this fire there were multiple firefighters injured by electrical shock. Operating in close proximity often leads to multiple casualties and electricity is invisible.
Luckily it seems like our guys will be OK but the injuries are piling up. Yet another close call after last weeks near fatal high-rise fire. Back to the firehouse tonight.