Maryland Chief Rebukes Claim Response Time Contributed To Fatal Fire

META PETTUS
WUSA9
Reprinted with Permission

FROSTBURG, Md. (WUSA) - Frostburg's Fire Chief Nathan Blubaugh told 9 News Now despite claims that the firefighters' response was slow and ineffective they did everything they could to save Evan Kullberg, and Alyssa Salazar from a fire earlier this month.


In a statement Chief Blubaugh said the first call to 82 E. Main St. came in at 4:21 AM. The first fire units made it on scene at 4:30 a.m.

He said, "Several attempts to enter the rear of the structure were made but due to the intense smoke and flames present it was deemed in-accesable and other options had to be found to gain access to that area."

Chief Blubaugh said the firefighters inability to rescue the victims had nothing to with response times, but had everything to do with the heavy flames and smoke coming out of the building.

In addition he said, "The Frostburg Fire Department is a 100% volunteer organization and the stations are not manned. At the time of the call members responded from their own homes to the fire house and then manned the apparatus and responded to the scene."

Evan Kullberg and Alyssa Salazar died trapped in their apartment early calling desperately to 911 for help. Kullberg and Salazar died from smoke inhalation.

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Someone tell me why the media needs to sensationalize the death of 2 young people??? The last thing the FF/EMS personel that were trying to get to these 2 kids need to hear is her Dying on the 911 call.
It's bad enough you have to deal with the loss of 2 lives...now you have to hear it.
WUSA should be ashamed and I hope the families of these 2 kids never have to hear this.
What purpose did this serve,putting that call out for anyone and everyone to hear.
Please explain this.
I cant believe the 911 center released that tape!!!! Isnt that the same as responders taking pictures/videos of incidents and showing them???? could be wrong but isnt this a HIPPA violation???? Verry disturbing!! esp. for the family and firefighters involved!!!
In my 17 yrs in the fire service I have seen & heard the local news media do a lot of questionable things. At first (without listening to the audio) I wasn't to upset, I thought it would be a typical 911 call saying "I need the fire dept my house is on fire" But after listening to the audio I can't believe WUSA9 would put out there the last moments of the young lives lost that night and put out there their last breaths.

As a firefighter the last thing I would want is to hear the final dying words of those who I risked everything to save played over and over again. Channel 9 should be ashamed and the communications center should be ashamed as well for releasing this audio. Alittle more judgement should if been used..

As for the Firefighters who responded on this call, You may hear & see alot of things over the next few days, weeks or even months but don't think that you didn't do your job, You were faced with a tough situation and did all that you could.
I Was There...now you know why I'm upset. This was hard enough to swallow having lost 2 young lives, then to hear it. I don't think HIPPA covers such things but common sense and respect for the 2 kids that were lost should.
These are the kinds of things the FCC should be discouraging, not Howard Stern saying penis on the radio.
My most sincere condolences to the family and friends of those that lost their lives and the firefighters that worked this call.

That tape should NEVER have been released, period. It does bring up the fact that the increased response times inherent in all-volunteer systems can indeed reduce the chance for civilian victim survival in a residential fire.

Maybe it's time for the local fire department to consider at least one career crew to get a faster response time.

The other thing I'm wondering about is the tactics. Why did they concentrate their initial efforts on the rear of the structure? It's a common best practice to attack through the unburned (least involved) part of the structure and to push the fire away from those areas due to them being the most survivable for the victims. I haven't seen where the victims were, but if they weren't in the rear with the seat of the fire, an initial attack from somewhere other than Division C might have given the victims a better chance.

Running the attack lines straight to the seat of the fire might not have been the best tactical choice.

Anyone that was there who wants to chime in and enlighten us is welcome to do so.
That was the only entrance to the apt's...they were off the back of the building
I cant believe the 911 center released that tape!!!!

They have to, 911 calls are public record.

The issue of such calls being public record came to light in Green Bay in the early 1990's when a paper mill employee obtained a copy of a call made to the police about a theft at the mill. The "tipster" ended up murdered. That brought to light the issue of 911 calls, but dispatch can not hold onto such calls, unless the police confiscate the calls for part of an investigation.

It really isn't a HIPPA violation because names and medical history are not given out. As such the call itself is also public record, a newspaper can print that a call was made for such and such address at a certain time, they just don't release the names. In event of fire etc, the owner's name etc can be released, because again of public record.

So really, it isn't the fact that such calls shouldn't be released, but just because of public record, doesn't mean the calls need to be aired in the media. There should be some common sense involved. Because such calls are a public record and if some individual really had a yearning to listen to such a call, they can obtain the call for themselves. Quite of difference of the media exploiting such a call to the public for either ratings or "shock factor".
Volunteer doesn't have to mean respond from home. Depending on their call volumes, they could look to have volunteers staff the firehouse at least overnight and outside of working hours.
This sounds like a local media mentality of, "If it bleeds, it leads," sort of thing. I didn't watch the attached video or read anything other than the Chief's response. It never seemed to fail when I was in, if we got there in a hurry, we were driving like maniacs and being reckless. If we got there when it was fully involved on arrival, we were slow as snails and not good for anything but saving chimneys. You can never win in those situations. From what the Chief said, it's pretty evident to me the department tried to gain entry but the fire was far too advanced from them to be able to do so. There are times when there's nothing you can do. I hated it, you current folks hate it, we all do, but it's the nature of the profession.

My sympathies to the families and the fire dept. for all they having to endure right now. Not much else I can say here.
Don't get me wrong...I agree wholeheartedly with your impression that the guys did their best to save them. You just can't save everyone. It sucks...it hurts...but it's the reality.

I was simply responding to Ben's suggestion that the dept look at adding a career shift to speed response times.
Anytime that life is lost, someone is looking to point a finger, someone to blame, it's a fact of life. The media will always do their best to report what they think is news worthy, whether it's right or moral, a lot of times not, they just want the story. The response time of this call wasn't bad, not for an early morning fire, no matter if it was a volunteer department or not, nine minutes from the time the call originated to on scene, is fine. The fact that there were no smoke detectors and only one exit from the structure made the situation difficult to impossible to change the outcome. Incidents like this are what makes changes in the future, preplanning the hazards, perform inspections and get the property owners to comply. My thoughts go to the families affected by this incident, my prayers to the Firefighters and Rescuers that have to bear the stress of loosing someone, it wasn't their fault, it was just a bad call.
Hey, no problem. Adding a "career" shift is all fine and well provided the department has the funding to do that. There are still a lot of areas in this country where there simply are no funds to hire anybody. There are a lot of areas where codes and code enforcement are pretty much non-existant. Where I came from, we were allowed a 4 minute response time to the farthest point of our district under ISO. A nine minute response time would have cost us mucho points on the ISO inspection.

No, I'm not about to critique what those guys did or didn't do, I wasn't there. I haven't spoken to any of them personally, so again, all I have to go on is what that Chief said and I have no reason to doubt him. As Larry said, someone is always looking to point a finger, and I'll add to that, but never lift a hand to help.

In the case of this loss of life, my gut tells me the firefighters there are probably faced with a public sentiment that keeps fire protection at the bottom of the list. That is, until "their" house is on fire. The old saw of "out of sight, out of mind" is still prevalent in a lot of America. What do you do?

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