On behalf of International Speak Like A Pirate Day, an account of the the Jolly Rogers of Rogers Avenue. Consider the items in bold; how do they measure up against your officer and company?
The members of Engine 255 were in the kitchen of their Flatbush firehouse participating in a late-evening drill conducted by “Captain Jack” Pritchard. Suddenly, the tone alarm shattered the air and the members scrambled to their rig. The Company was directed to respond first-due to a report of smoke in an apartment house. Known for their rapid turnout from quarters, the Jolly Rogers quickly arrived at a six-story, non-fireproof, multiple dwelling.
- "report of smoke" Expect fire.
- "rapid turnout" Preparedness.
Captain John J. Pritchard (FDNY photo)
No sooner had the apparatus stopped when Captain Pritchard was met by a woman who was screaming frantically that her baby was trapped in the fire. Captain Pritchard and the woman proceeded to the fourth floor of the building where he could see smoke pushing under pressure from the apartment door. He quickly radioed instructions to his members tostretch a hose-line to the fourth floor and transmitted the 10-75 signal for a working fire.
- "proceeded with the woman" Maintain control, do not lose your head; expect fire.
- "radioed instructions to his members" Training, competency.
After ascertaining from the hysterical mother exactly where in the flat her child was located, Captain Pritchard attempted to force the door open. Again, he transmitted instructions to the arriving Companies. He advised Ladder 157 that a child was trapped and the forcible entry team and outside vent man were urgently required.
- "exactly where in the flat" Maintain control; constant sizeup.
- "forcible entry team and outside vent man were urgently required." Communication.
As luck would have it, through the heavy smoke, Captain Pritchard spied the keys to the apartment in the lock. After removing his right glove, he turned the key and opened the door. The sudden gust of air--produced by the open door--caused conditions in the fire apartment to deteriorate rapidly.
- "Captain Pritchard spied the keys to the apartment in the lock". Maintain control; constant sizeup.
Pritchard (center) with members of Engine 255. Engine Company 255 has a well-deserved reputation for exceptionally quick turnouts. photo courtesy of Battalion Chief John J. Pritchard/FDNY
Immediately, Captain Pritchard dropped to his hands and knees and entered the high heat and heavy black smoke. As he crawled into the apartment, the Captain could see that the fire had complete possession of the child’s bedroom. He entered the room, staying as low as possible, to remain under the extreme heat and rolling flames. Although the intense fire conditions caused Captain Pritchard to suffer burns and started to drive him from the room, the cries of an infant spurred him forward.
- "He entered the room, staying as low as possible" Never forget the basics.
As he groped his way to the far end of the room, he reached a plastic playpen. Inside was a baby girl. With flames venting out two windows directly above the child, there was no way Captain Pritchard could lift the infant up and out of harm’s way. There was only one alternative--grab the playpen and pull it toward the apartment door.
The room was engulfed in fire, the playpen was melting in his bare hand and Captain Pritchard was exhausted. Still, he took hold and dragged the playpen--with the child still inside--more than 15 feet through the apartment to the safety of the public hall. Once there, both Captain Pritchard and 10-month-old Shadee Brophete were tended to by medical personnel and subsequently transported to the Burn Center, where they were admitted.
Acting alone and without the protection of a hose-line, Captain Pritchard subjected himself to extreme personal risk by entering a room engulfed in fire to perform a lifesaving rescue. His selfless and courageous act exemplifies the highest traditions of the FDNY. For these reasons, he is presented with the Dr. Harry M. Archer Medal. -- BDG
Practice how you want to perform. Set a standard and beat it.
Expect fire; don't lose your head - you are the fire department. There is a reason why they called you.
Practice communication. Listen to fireground audio tapes or online videos and look at what you would communicate and how you can improve.
Continue to sizeup the fire. You never stop once you enter the fire building.
Wear your gloves.
FDNY Medal Day 2003
Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.
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