Close Calls: An Extreme Close Call With Incredible Heroism - Part 3 (2022)

This is the third installment in a multi-part series of columns about a tragic fire that took the lives of two Bryan, TX, fire lieutenants and critically injured two firefighters in February 2013. This month, we feature additional accounts about what occurred at that incident and the lessons we can all learn from them.

The following account is from Acting Lieutenant Jonas Brooks of Truck 1:

We arrived on scene and started a counter-clockwise walk-around of the structure. At the start of the walk-around, the officer called for a K-Tool to open the glass double doors on the A side of the structure. Continuing the walk-around, doors on the Delta and Charlie sides were found and were locked. Truck 1 forced these two doors and returned them to a closed position to not interfere with positive-pressure attack and to create egress points for interior crews should they need an exit (softening the building).

When Truck 1 made it to the Charlie/Bravo corner, we looked down the Bravo side and noticed a double door closer to the Charlie/Bravo corner and a single door near the Alpha/Bravo corner. In Bryan, it is normal operating procedures to force doors and windows closest to the fire for positive-pressure attack. Truck 1 crew forced the single door on the Bravo side in the Alpha/Bravo corner for a vent hole where the fire was reported by all crews, including command, on scene. This door was forced because it was the only spot for ventilation nearest the fire. Though not radioed that fire was behind the door when forced open, it was known by all crews who completed their walk-around.

It was believed by the Truck 1 officer that the engine crew was about to knock the fire out from the inside and hit the truck crew with the water stream when the door on the Bravo side was forced. Truck 1 continued their walk-around. The double doors on the Bravo side were not forced because they were not near where the fire appeared to be and did not seem to be a problem for crews on the inside to open. The double doors were panic double doors that did not appear to be heavily reinforced. There was no fire visible from the outside near the double doors on the Bravo side.

After the vent hole was complete, the Truck 1 operator met with the crew to now make up a crew of three. When Truck 1 made it back to the door on the Alpha side, the Engine 1 crew had already broken out the glass to the front door and made entry. Truck 1 made entry and noticed a hoseline going left into the bingo room. We decided to move toward Engine 1 and the fire, and open the walls and ceiling up for the engine crew. As soon as entry was made into the bingo room, visibility was zero, but no heat was noticed.

When Truck 1 made it approximately halfway down the Alpha side of the structure, the officer felt heat on his shoulders while standing. No fire was noticed and there was no visibility. At this point, the truck operator’s mask started to leak. The truck operator told his officer and the crew quickly exited the structure. Truck 1 left the operator outside to fix his mask and get the K-Tool to get the front doors open.

Truck 1 crew then re-entered with only the officer and firefighter. The Truck 1 officer decided to follow the hoseline, crawling to get to the engine crew to see what they needed. After about 25 feet, Truck 1 ran into the Engine 1 crew at the nozzle. Truck 1 noticed no heat with zero visibility at ground level. Truck 1 asked the Engine 1 crew what they needed and the Engine 1 officer stated that he needed someone to pull more hose for them.

Truck 1 crawled back to the doorway to the bingo room and pulled hose for the engine crew. When finished pulling hose, Truck 1 officer and firefighter’s air was above a quarter, but below half. Truck 1 exited the structure to get more air. Not long after, the crew re-entered. Truck 1 followed the hoseline that Engine 1 was on. As soon as Truck 1 made entry to the bingo room, the Truck 1 officer heard something on the radio and told his crew to sit down on the hoseline and listen to the radio. Nothing came back over the radio.

Engine 1 Firefighter Eric Juergen ran into Truck 1 sitting on the hoseline. Firefighter Juergen kept repeating that Lieutenant Wallace was in there. Truck 1 noticed a PASS (personal alert safety system) alarm going off in the bingo room. The Truck 1 officer told the Engine 2 officer that a PASS device was going off in the room. The Engine 2 officer did not hear this and stated that he was out of air and leaving.

The Truck 1 officer turned back around to his crew and Firefighter Juergen to hear the Truck 1 firefighter asking Firefighter Juergen, “Where his he?” Firefighter Juergen stated that Lieutenant Wallace was on the hoseline. Truck 1 showed Firefighter Juergen the exit and told him to leave. Truck 1 then heard the PASS device and noticed it seemed to only be about 25 feet away. Truck 1’s officer thought that the Engine 1 officer was “right there” and focused on getting to the Engine 1 officer and to then get out of the building.

The Truck 1 officer made the decision to follow the sound and get to the PASS alarm. Our operator was in front on the hoseline and started crawling down the hose. The Truck 1 officer stated on the radio, “I have the firefighter down 25 feet from me on the hoseline. Go in the door turn left 25 feet in.” The Truck 1 operator then came across a loop of hose and stated that there were tables and chairs on it. The Truck 1 officer noticed the Truck 1 operator’s low-air alarm sounding. The Truck 1 officer asked his operator what his air was at and he stated he was low. All of Truck 1 crew believed that Lieutenant Wallace was crawling toward the nozzle on the hoseline.

After the fire, the Truck 1 operator stated that he believed he had gotten within five feet of Lieutenant Wallace, but then ran into tables and chairs. The Truck 1 officer noticed heat at ground level with no visibility and no fire. With the Truck 1 operator low on air, the Truck 1 crew had to leave the structure.

Truck 1 exited the structure with a crew of three and made contact with the RIT (rapid intervention team) officer in the front yard. Truck 1 officer told the RIT officer, Lieutenant Pickard, that Lieutenant Wallace was on the red hoseline 25 to 50 feet in and to go in the door and turn left. The RIT was clear and immediately went to work.

Truck 1’s officer told the Truck 1 operator to refill his pack and meet back. The Truck 1 officer and firefighter then pulled a three-inch blitz line off the back of the attack engine. The thought was to cool down the room Lieutenant Wallace was in so that we could protect him. The flashover happened while we were deploying the blitz line.

While deploying that line, command asked Lieutenant Pickard for an update, but there was no response. The Truck 1 officer, unaware of the flashover inside the structure, made the decision that the best thing to do would be to help the RIT remove Lieutenant Wallace. The Truck 1 officer and firefighter re-entered the structure and found a firefighter (Firefighter Moran) lying limp on his side just inside the bingo room. Truck 1 and Engine 2 removed the down firefighter to outside the structure. The Truck 1 officer and firefighter with the Engine 2 officer and firefighter removed all three members of the RIT. All members of the RIT were unable to assist with their rescue.

After the RIT was removed, Lieutenant Wallace remained in the building. This was due to Truck 1 and Engine 2 members running out of air after removing the first three firefighters. The Truck 1 firefighter desperately tried to grab Lieutenant Wallace, but ran out of air. The firefighter disconnected his regulator and kept trying to get into the room, but was unable due to smoke and had no choice but to leave.

The Truck 1 crew came out of the structure and Engine 2 was now trying to get Lieutenant Wallace, and they ran out of air and left the structure. The Truck 1 officer returned into the structure and operated a hoseline, flowing it above Lieutenant Wallace to keep the fire off of him.

During this time, Truck 1 and Engine 2 called for help multiple times. Truck 1 looked back toward the entry doorway and saw the Truck 1 firefighter leave the door and go toward the Alpha/Delta side of the building on the outside. The Truck 1 officer dropped the hoseline and found his firefighter telling the Engine 4 crew, who just arrived on scene, where Lieutenant Wallace was in the building, then went to switch out air bottles. While outside the structure, Truck 1 did not think that much time was left to try to get Lieutenant Wallace. EMS 1 came up to Truck 1 officer, grabbed him and desperately stated, “You go in there and get him, you go get him.”

The Engine 2 and Truck 1 officers and firefighters re-entered the structure and went past Engine 4 crew, who were flowing water. Engine 2 went to Lieutenant Wallace’s head and shoulders and began to push while Truck 1 grabbed his legs and tried to pull him. Crews were unable to move him until someone started counting 1, 2, 3 in a coordinated effort. Engine 4 assisted by grabbing what they could and spraying water to protect the rescue crews. Lieutenant Wallace was finally removed from the structure.

The following account is from Firefighter Rickey Mantey, who was on Engine 5, the RIT:

Med 5 transported me to St. Joe’s ER prior to being airlifted to UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch). The RIT was transported to become stabilized prior to being airlifted.

We need to recognize the truck and engine companies for what they encountered that night. Every department trains on searching and getting down firefighters and bring them out to safety. The Truck 1 and Engine 2 crews never gave up. They are our HEROES.

The medic crews that night who transported the RIT members and Lieutenant 1 to St. Joe’s need to be recognized also. When you work on your own brother or sister, it is harder than you think.

The following thoughts from Battalion Chief Joe Ondrasek, the incident commander, while brief, are absolutely critical to understand and gain perspective about this incident:

I felt overwhelmed, like a 10-story building just fell on me. I kept thinking, what have I missed? What do I do next? Who do I ask? The minutes are like seconds. In my mind, what happened over a 10-minute period was actually 30 or 40 minutes.

Looking back, it’s all from the gut. Will you/can you remember to look in this spot or that spot for this list or that list? I am not sure. In the end, we revert back to what we know, how we train, what we learned in training, what we practiced. Even then, it’s not going to be perfect.

The following account is from Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor:

This incident was devastating to our fire department family, to say the least. The loss of two exceptional fire lieutenants and the critical injuries to two very brave firefighters will forever be with all of us. It is important to note that while some things did not go as well as we would have liked, our personnel showed up that night and performed in exceptional ways.

After going through the investigations, and looking at what transpired during this incident, I realize more than ever there is no perfect fireground operation. We have to train diligently and do our best. But things will get missed and/or overlooked. The best thing we can do is review and learn from every incident we respond to.

Despite some operational shortcomings during the Knights of Columbus hall fire, I am extremely proud of our personnel and stand behind each one of them. The heroism displayed by many of our personnel that night speaks volumes of the heart and strength of these firefighters. They could have given up on rescuing their brother firefighters for the sake of their own safety, but none of them did, including Lieutenant Pickard, who gave his life.

All of our folks have embraced the lessons learned from this fire and have striven to prevent this from happening in the future. I believe the worst thing any department can do is to try to look past shortcomings and go back to “business as usual.”

As a fire chief going through such a horrific event, I certainly view things differently than before this fire. When you stand in an emergency room and witness four of your fire department family members critically injured and you are unsure if they are going to survive their injuries, it changes you.

Little things such as equipment being dirty or someone being late for work don’t seem as important as they once did. The most important thing to focus on is ensuring firefighter safety/survival in every situation, even when decisions affecting safety may not be popular.

The following comments from Chief Goldfeder are based on discussions with personnel of the BFD, including Chief McGregor, as well as facts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Texas State Fire Marshal reports (these comments and discussion points may have direct, varied or little relationship to the factors of this fire; however, they should be considered applicable to ensure the survival of all personnel on the fireground):

The members of the Bryan Fire Department, along with family members and friends, have been through hell. They have been investigated, evaluated and interviewed – which is what any department must expect at anytime, but certainly following a catastrophic incident and related losses.

The BFD will not be the same as it was prior to that February evening in 2013. In some respects, the pain will always be there, as they, their families and friends will never forget. On the other hand, when a loss like this happens, one of the most critical things that a department and their leaders can do is to learn from it – and share what they have learned – so they and we honor the loss of Lieutenant Pickard and Lieutenant Wallace. When we take time to learn from those who have gone before us, we honor their lives and their sacrifice in the highest means possible. When we learn from them, their loss is never in vain.

At this fire, several contributing factors led to the severely injured surviving firefighters and the fallen firefighters. Here are some for discussion:

• The building was not sprinklered. Simply put, fire sprinklers save lives (of civilians and firefighters) as well as property. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (mostly being political and fiscal-driven greed by some in the building industry), across the United States and Canada, most buildings are not sprinklered. If this building were sprinklered, you would be reading something else now.

• Size-up/risk versus gain. Sometimes, when we pull up on a reported fire and we perform a size-up, it is obvious we should not enter, such as when the structure is fully involved (what I mean by FULLY involved is that there is fire EVERYWHERE; otherwise, it is not fully involved). Sometimes, it is obvious we should go in, which really is the case most times, when conditions indicate we should do so. Either way, size-up helps us make those initial and on-going determinations.

In this case, the initial decision, based upon their initial observations, was to enter and size-up the interior conditions. Remember, the building was closed and there we no cars anywhere, so all obvious size-up indications were that it was unoccupied at the time of the fire. The initial reason to enter was to identify the fire conditions and get water on it quickly and, if on the off chance that there were victims, they may have been located.

• Do you know ROE? Fire departments should be aware of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section’s Rules of Engagement (ROE) of Structural Firefighting. These guidelines recommend that incident commanders conduct or obtain a 360-degree situational incident size-up, determine the occupant survival profile and conduct an initial risk assessment. The ROE is available at www.IAFCSafety.org.

• Fireground strategy and communications. It was clear from the start that the decision was to make this an offensive fire. The “game plan” was communicated clearly by Lieutenant Wallace, and that was the right initial decision. As time goes on – seconds and minutes – it is up to command to determine the game plan from there on out. Are things getting better (they were under that impression) or are they getting worse? There were indications of that as well. As an incident commander, you own this. Period. Be it a fire in a trash can, a nursing home, a dwelling or whatever the emergency, when you establish or assume command, you are assuming and accepting full and complete “ownership” of the scene.

Normally, incidents go well and very quickly – and everyone goes home. Sometimes, as an interior officer, you will however find yourself in “command conflict” with the incident commander. In other words, what you see and what command sees may not match – and that’s great; that’s why you are BOTH there. One of the most critical “communicating” jobs the interior officer(s) must do is to identify:

CONDITIONS

ACTIONS

NEEDS

What are the conditions YOU observe right now? What action have you and are you taking? What do you need? That’s called a CAN report, or a UCAN report (add the UNIT number in there.) This works both ways – command can ask for it and interior companies can offer it – when that report will make a difference to command and the overall operating conditions. Make sure command has a clear understanding of what changes have occurred, especially negative changes.

As a commander, you may find yourself in the mode of not liking how things are going. So what do you do? You take the information you have right now and take action. Sometimes, that action is to pull your members out. Other times, it may be to redirect them. And still other times, it may be to keep them interior and add more companies. It all depends on conditions, your plan and your resources available to carry out that plan.

What does this really mean? It means there will be times when the “troops” may not “like” what you decide, especially when you decide it’s time to pull them out when conditions are changing. They may not “like” what you decide, but your decision is based upon what they report, what you observe and your immediate “equation/determination” of those factors.

You may give the order for companies to pull out and some companies may not “like” that. This isn’t about what they like or don’t like. This isn’t about them wanting “five more minutes” or anything else. When you make a decision, that decision is to be followed. We can all talk about it later. And that’s a good thing – when we are all here to talk about it, after the fire.

Simply put, at the command level, 10 minutes (see “timing” below) means it is the maximum initial time to re-evaluate and determine whether there is any value in continuing interior operations. When companies are not making progress, there are no lives to be saved or in cases where there is conflicting information from interior reports and exterior observations, command should begin the removal of firefighters from the building and transition to a defensive mode.

Remember – you own every aspect of that fireground and certainly you must trust the reports of your interior and divisional officers. But this isn’t about trust; this is about what you see in and understand about the big picture trumping what they see (and have reported to you) within their limited area of operation. If, after all your training and experience as a commander, you don’t like what you see, FIX IT, regardless of what that “fix” may be.

At this fire, situation reports and key discoveries were not consistently communicated to command so that fire location, spread, control progress and other vital information could be monitored and factored into the decision-making process. During their movement through the bingo area, Engine 1 twice encountered fire above their heads as well as increasing smoke and heat conditions. Truck 1 saw fire burning through the exterior wall on the B side while performing a 360-degree walk-around and encountered heavy fire when they opened the adjacent exterior door to the kitchen. Neither crew reported this information to command. This information, combined with reports of heavy fire in the dance hall area reported by Engine 2, could have proven valuable to command in determining that the fire was not localized and was not being controlled by the tactics at that time.

• Resources. I have used football analogies comparable to the fireground in previous columns – and will now. As a firefighter operating inside, or as the commander operating outside, you never want an empty bench. What I mean is that the next time you watch a game on TV, notice that the coach (the incident commander) and the assistant coaches (divisions) always have a full bench available. The full bench allows for resources just in case things are not going as planned on the field – or your fireground.

It is important that, in addition to a full first-alarm response that MATCHES the fire and tasks your firefighters must perform, that you have enough resources “on the bench” for that backup, relief or emergency conditions. A good time to fill the bench (this is not your rapid intervention team; rather, they are due on your first alarm, the initial dispatch) is when you have indications of a working fire. Multiple reports, police on scene reporting, people reported trapped, etc. – details that make it obvious that your first alarm is going to be busy, so fill the bench. In some areas, they use the term “working fire dispatch” and communications adds two engines and a truck to the scene – to fill the bench automatically – when conditions before or upon arriving at the scene indicate everyone is going to work.

How you fill the bench is up to you; just make sure you do your best to have those additional resources on the scene, on the bench, well before you need them. Don’t need them? Have them cover your area, help mop up, pack hose or provide relief – or simply send them home.

• Rapid fire progression – but where is the fire? At the Knights of Columbus hall, the fire burned and spread undetected above the ceiling. This is not an uncommon occurrence, especially in commercial buildings. The members did not recognize the conditions indicative of two dangerous situations that existed or developing while operating interior, including that fire was involving concealed spaces above the ceiling and the pre-flashover conditions. They did not initially have a thermal imaging camera with them, which would have likely helped them discover the problems brewing above them.

When I learned about this fire in Bryan, and had a chance to speak with and meet with those involved, the “fire in the ceiling” circumstances reminded me of a 1989 fire that occurred in Orange County, FL. Specifically, it taught me about “hidden” fire above and how quickly conditions can change. Very briefly, early on the morning of Feb. 24, 1989, Orange County Engine 36 was dispatched as a part of the first alarm to a fire in a T-shirt store. Light smoke was showing from the attic area, but the store itself was clear of smoke. Firefighter/Paramedic Mark Benge and Firefighter Richard Marcotte pulled a 1¾-inch hose to the front door and forced entry. Engineer Todd Aldridge, who was acting lieutenant on this shift, ordered Benge to pull ceiling tiles just inside the door to check fire conditions above them. The area was clear, so the crew began advancing deeper into the store. As they did so, Benge kept pulling ceiling tiles, but saw no sign of fire.

Then, all of a sudden, around 10 minutes into the run, the entire roof structure began collapsing into the first floor. Aldridge yelled to his the two firefighters to get out. Marcotte was not seriously injured and managed to crawl to the glass door and break his way out with his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottle. Rescue attempts were made by additional units that arrived, but the fire flared to life with such intensity the rescue failed. Engineer Todd Aldridge and Firefighter/Paramedic Mark Benge gave the ultimate sacrifice. (For more on this fire, search “Aldridge-Benge Firefighter Safety Act.”)

• Ventilation – understanding the reaction to our or the fire’s action. Companies arriving observed fire coming from the roof at the A/B corner. The truck company “popped” the door at the A/B corner on the B side and observed heavy fire in this area, but did not have a hoseline to attack the fire. Lieutenant Wallace and his probationary firefighter advanced a hoseline through the bingo hall to this same area to attack the fire from the inside. They had not pulled any ceiling tiles and did not have a thermal imager to see if the fire was advancing above them. Additionally, positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) fans were placed at the front door on A side, which allowed better visibility within the vestibule, but in turn negatively pushed outside air into the structure.

• Remembering commercial building versus single-family-dwelling tactics and STAFFING. At almost every fire department, we respond to single-family-dwelling fires, which means we most often use single-family-dwelling tactics and, typically, room(s) and contents. Commercial fires, often just in size alone, create greater and different challenges.

The fire in this 7,400-square-foot, wood building had vented through the roof, which was observed by 9-1-1 callers before the first company arrived on scene. Command and front-line officers need to take this information into account and be aware that the fire may be free-burning – potentially above an interior operation, as it was in this incident.

Response plans (resources/staffing) can be pre-calculated to determine the tasks that will be predictably needed. Determine your required fire flow (based upon construction and building size) and the required tasks, including water supply, apparatus operations, forcible entry, command, command aide/divisions, control, accountability, stretching lines (how many, how large and type), searching/rescue/removal, ventilation, incident safety officer and whatever others tasks your department may need to perform. And perform them simultaneously in order to have a shot at getting it under control as soon as possible. At this fire, the fire department responded with three-person engine crews and a three-person truck company.

• Crew integrity. During this fire, Lieutenant Wallace and his probationary firefighter somehow became separated after leaving together. One assumption is that Lieutenant Wallace followed the line out, but the line had a loop in it, and he followed it right back to his nozzle while his firefighter was able to get out. The probationary firefighter was unaware that his lieutenant was having trouble in exiting until after he heard a transmission over the radio. By this time, the two were out of reach and contact from each other. Lieutenant Wallace immediately began radioing for assistance and alerted others by depressing his emergency button on his hand-held radio.

• Air management and timing. During operations, Lieutenant Wallace asked his probationary firefighter to check his remote pressure gauge for him to see how much air he had remaining. According to information from the BFD lieutenant coming off shift, there was an issue with Lieutenant Wallace’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) heads-up display, but the SCBA remained in service. After determining how much air he had left, approximately one-quarter, or 25%, Lieutenant Wallace made the decision that he and his probationary firefighter would exit the building, but the lieutenant became separated from his probationary firefighter and then had difficulty in following the hoseline to the exit.

The remaining air in his bottle was not sufficient for Lieutenant Wallace to attempt to follow the hoseline out before becoming disoriented. Lieutenant Wallace suffered an SCBA out-of-air emergency and may have been out of air when the RIT found him. It is not known whether he removed his own facepiece, but it was not on when he was brought out of the structure.

Time can so easily get away from us while operating; however, systems can be put in place to help us manage that. For example, does your fire department use a system in which dispatch alerts command that they are “10 minutes” into the incident, and then again at “20 minutes” into the incident, etc?

Every 10 minutes makes good sense from a command-level overall air-management standpoint. Why 10 minutes? It allows for approximate exit time for the members operating. When a low-air alarm sounds, many departments now consider that situation a Mayday emergency. The idea is to operate within your known air-usage time and (you and your crew) be out before the low-air alarm sounds.

• Mayday, radios, fireground emergencies and dispatch. While Lieutenant Wallace did report his emergency, it wasn’t immediately clear as he did not declare “Mayday.” He did transmit to the incident commander that he needed assistance and he did activate the emergency button on his hand-held radio. However, he was unable to reset it (locking the channel with his mic auto-keyed), which might have caused communications problems at times on the fireground between firefighters on this channel. Dispatch or the incident commander should request an additional tactical channel when a firefighter issues a Mayday or is in trouble to handle the fireground operations.

Also, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Fireground Survival program, which is available to all fire departments, career or volunteer, was developed to ensure that training for Mayday prevention and Mayday operations is consistent between all firefighters, company officers and chief officers. Here is that program: http://www.iaff.org/HS/FGS/FGSIndex.htm

Now is a good time to determine what YOUR fire department’s Mayday procedure is. What happens to the fireground companies not involved with the Mayday? What resources automatically respond upon the transmission of a Mayday? How is EMS handled? What role does dispatch play? How SIMPLE is the policy? Simple enough to know it immediately when you hear Mayday?

While we hope you never have to deal with any aspect of a Mayday, we must all be ready well ahead of time because when we do hear that word, there is a great chance we will not be able to “remember” everything that may be needed. This is also a reminder that command can transmit a Mayday based upon what they know or even suspect to get the Mayday response activated on and off the fireground.

While we often discuss staffing on the fireground, we often forget that there is a need to staff at the command level. At this fire, the commander was managing arriving units from the automatic-aid department and current operations on the fireground when Lieutenant Wallace gave his distress call. The chief now had to manage the RIT operations, deteriorating fire conditions and fireground operations. A chief’s aide would have been valuable in managing the tactical worksheet, maintaining personnel accountability of all members operating at the incident and monitoring radio communications on the multiple channels.

• SCBA policy related to inspection and reporting of problems. Prior to the incident, Lieutenant Wallace was advised by the lieutenant coming off shift that the officer’s SCBA heads-up display was not functioning. This event actually occurred after shift change because an earlier fire had begun shortly before Lieutenant Wallace came on duty at 7 A.M and the lieutenant who was going off noted the problem while at this fire, which started at around 6:30 A.M.

Lieutenant Wallace used this same SCBA during the incident. His heads-up display wasn’t working, so he was not able to determine how much air remained in his SCBA bottle. When he asked his probationary firefighter to look at his remote pressure gauge, it was discovered that the lieutenant was only at one-quarter of his bottle, or about 25% of air remaining. This proved not to be enough air for him to follow the hoseline out before getting separated and disorientated. More than 15 minutes passed after he made his final transmission and he was removed from the structure. Remember, in addition to the SCBA issue, the room flashed over as the RIT was attempting his rescue.

• Hoselines – what and where? Anytime you are operating inside, you should always be able to answer this question: Where is the hoseline (or backup line) that is protecting you? During this fire, a second hoseline was initially stretched into the structure by Engine 2 to back up the Engine 1 crew. When it was determined that the Engine crew was doing OK, the Engine 2 crew repositioned that second line for firefighting support from the vestibule into the dance hall. At this point, both hoselines were being used for primary firefighting in two different locations, but the crews and the primary egress point were not protected additional hoselines.

Once again, calculate the need prior to the fire and then create your first-alarm assignments based upon the needed tasks. Also, include the staffing of your department and mutual aid departments, as some may arrive with three or four firefighters, but others may arrive with fewer firefighters. When arriving with fewer firefighters, it takes longer to get things accomplished.

In conclusion, please take time to read the NIOSH and Texas State Fire Marshal reports on the Knight of Columbus Hall fire in Bryan. It is critical for you to fully understand what these members went through and, in some cases, what they are still going through. While our column certainly provides you with significant factual detail and opinion, the reports go into even greater detail.

Lieutenant Wallace experienced something none of us ever, ever want to experience. Lieutenant Pickard gave his life attempting to save his brother firefighter, Eric, and was well involved in fire (from the flashover) while not giving up until he collapsed. Firefighters Rickey Mantey and Mitch Moran suffered extreme burns assisting Lieutenant Pickard in those life-saving attempts and the families, the BFD members and friends have also experienced life-altering events – from deaths to physical injury to the emotional and mental aspect.

While we honor those who performed so heroically, we also want to learn so that we can minimize similar future incidents from occurring. By learning from what the BFD went through, we can no better honor Lieutenants Picard and Wallace. RIP.

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