Lately I’ve taken a break from the blog. Quite frankly I’ve been too tired and disgusted to write about the same old crap. The holidays take everyone’s strength and leave little time for anything else. Now that their over I have been concentrating on work and the kids. Also I wrapped up my school work and need a break. Aside from a change of command at my station work has been quiet and slow. My boss Chief L. and my fire school classmate Lt. J. both finished up their three year commands this past week. They are moving on to new assignments (Lt. J. is getting a promotion to Captain and going back to my old command downtown). He’ll do a great job and I wish them both the best of luck. They are both outstanding firefighters and officers and I am lucky to have worked alongside them. Their replacements have already started. My new Chief is a great guy who I have known for many years. I have met the new engine Lieutenant and we’ll get along just fine. Life goes on at the firehouse.
Work has been slow most likely because of the (thus far) mild winter. Even so we still have our busy moments. Like the night before last. Our last night work of the tour proved to be relentless. It all started after midnight (as usual). We we’re called out to cover another station in Northwest Philly due to a large fire out there. On the way they called for more companies and we were diverted to the scene. It turned out that three or four houses were on fire. My company was designated to stand by as the RIT (Rapid Intervention Team). That consists of standing by in case a firefighter gets trapped or injured and needs immediate assistance. It’s a tough job for firefighters to stand by while everyone else is working, but it is one of the most important duties we can perform, rescuing our own. After an hour or so the fire was extinguished and we were sent back to our station. Then things got really ugly.
Around 4 am I decided it was safe to try to get a cat-nap. It was a bad idea. Once again we were called out to cover another station. This time it was Ladder 15. They were on the scene of another very bad house fire. As we listened to the radio it was clear that things weren’t going well. The companies were faced with heavy fire and difficult access to the property. The place was a typical Philadelphia style store front. A hair salon occupied the first floor with apartments above on the second. In this instance there was a third floor efficiency apartment set back to the rear.
Initial reports were that everyone was out. Those reports turned out to be incorrect. In fact there were three people trapped inside. The firefighters battled relentlessly in an effort to gain access and get an angle to attack the seat of the fire. Eventually they made it inside where they started finding victims. A mother and two teenage children were brought out. Unfortunately no one survived. One firefighter was injured as well.
The reason I decided to blog this story is because it’s a sad a predictable example of what happens when politicians take short cuts with emergency services. You may remember this story I did a while back: https://firstin.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/the-curious-case-of-engine-38/
It’s the story of how Engine 38 was closed down and their station demolished to make way for a new on ramp to I-95. It’s been a long time and Engine 38’s station is still nowhere near completion. In fact there is wide-spread speculation on the quality of work being done there. By comparison a new WAWA gas station / convenience store (complete with gas pumps) was built nearby in half the time. Go figure.
Why does this matter? Because this fire was less than a half a mile from Engine 38’s station. The company that had to respond first in, in Engine 38’s place is about a mile and a half away. As usual there is NOTHING mentioned in the local media reports pointing these facts out. Unless you read this blog you would never know these facts. When you are trapped in a burning building a mile may as well be a light year. Engine 38 gets on location and stretches their first line while the fire and smoke are still tenable. Engine 52 gets there when the fire and smoke are now blowing out the windows. It’s the difference between finding the stairs quickly or not at all. In short its about life or death. Once again as we see, in Philadelphia when it comes to public safety it’s death that wins every time.