On January 23, 2005, a fire was reported on the 3rd floor of an apartment building at E178st in the Bronx. Arriving first at 0803hrs, Engine 42 took side A and began advancing a line to the third floor where Ladder 33 forced and held the door in preparation of the engine company. With a dry line to the fire apartment, moderate gray smoke was coming from behind the door. At this time E42 chauffer informed the crews he had a frozen hydrant, and he would have to receive water from a relay. Ladder 27 was on the 4th floor searching above the fire while Ladder 33 was searching the fire room in intense heat and smoke.
While crews were at the seat of the fire in the kitchen, the primary and only attack line completely lost water at 0819hrs. Prior to this, water pressure would be lost and regained several times. At this point E42, 46 and L33 backed out under intense heat. Also at this time, E75 was advancing a line to the 4th floor to protect Rescue 3 and L27 in their search efforts and attack potential fire. Before the line was charged, the OIC ordered the lines on the floors to be switched, leaving crews on the 4th floor without water in a heavy smoke and little heat environment.
At 0826hrs, R3 radioed an urgent message of fire blowing into the hallway and shortly after this had to bail from the apartment hallway as flames erupted from the kitchen. He turned back to see a wall of fire at his previous location. This rapidly progressing fire trapped 6 members in the rear bedroom and caused three maydays.
In a rear bedroom, L27 attempted to clear a window but found a metal child guard blocking half the window (Window C in diagram 3). In an attempt to force the bars or self rescue, L27 officer climbed over the bars and fell. In unbearable heat, the two firefighters with him followed the four story fall to the concrete sidewalk below.
In an adjacent bedroom with extreme heat and zero visibility, a member of R3 hung his upper body out the window for attempted rescue. Ironically in the window next to him was another R3 member performing the same task but with a 50’ self rescue rope (Window A, B diagram 3). Handing him the rope, they took turns sliding to the end of the rope and falling the remainder. Once on the ground looking up, fire was now coming out of the window.
A few hours later in Brooklyn, units were sent at 1336hrs to 577 Jerome Street for a basement fire in a two story, dual residential home. On arrival, Ladder 103 entered the basement via interior stairs to conduct a search for fire and victims ahead of Engine 290 with their line. With heavy heat and smoke present from the basement, E290 pulled a second line to be placed at the top of the stairs for protection at 1345hrs. Even after the exterior basement access doors were forced, and windows taken, crews in the basement and interior stairs were forced to back out from the heat.
After agreeing, L103 began the trip up the interior stairs and once outside, L103 officer realized he was short one man. Returning to the top of the stairs, he could hear a PASS activating and declared a Mayday. Due to extreme heat, crews had to wait for a line to be brought to the top of the stairs before a rescue attempt could be made. The firefighter was located in a very narrow landing in the middle of the stairs. Due to entanglement, high heat, and zero visibility, it took twenty minutes to remove the firefighter.
In the Bronx, the firefighters caught in a Wind Driven Fire were without Department issued ropes. A few years prior to the incident, ropes were handed out but then stopped, citing lack of use by personnel. The rope used in the incident was bought by the firefighter and very may have saved their lives. The four firefighters that survived the fall, collectively suffered injuries of broken heels, ankles, legs, hip, pelvis, ribs, and shoulders; one even had his skull separate from his spine and was administered last rights twice while in the hospital.
In the Bronx, built in the 1920’s this four story brick apartment building measured 40x90 and had fire escapes Alpha and Charlie. A central staircase connected the 12 apartments on four floors from the ground to the roof. Starting in a faulty outlet on the third floor, fire spread up to the top floor and was pushed by the 45mph gust winds through out the illegally renovated apartment that members were trapped and eventually bailed from.
In Brooklyn, a dual resident, two story wood frame building measured 25x50 with an interior stairwell to the basement, and exterior access.
Lt. Curtis Meyran, Battalion 26, Bronx
Firefighter John Bellew, Ladder 27, Bronx
Firefighter Richard Sclafani, Ladder 103, Brooklyn