It is with deep sorrow and regret that the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company announces the line of duty passing of Firefighter Gene Kirchner. Gene succumbed to his injures after an 8 day fight. He sustained critical injuries while he was performing a search on a dwelling fire April 24, 2013. Gene is a 9 year member of our company and was a junior fire fighter for 2 years. A full fire department funeral will be scheduled.
Date of Funeral: Sunday, May 5, 2013 Time of Funeral: 1 pm
A volunteer firefighter who joined the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company as a teenager more than a decade ago died Thursday of injuries sustained in a fire last week that also killed another man.
Gene Kirchner, 25, died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, officials said.
“Everybody is extremely shocked by this,” said Craig Hewitt, assistant chief of the fire company. “They’re missing Gene right now. He was a very key part of our fire company, and he will be greatly missed.”
Kirchner was one of the first firefighters to respond to the house fire on Hanover Road early on the morning of April 24.
He tried to save a man trapped inside, officials said. Kirchner was found unconscious on the second floor when a county response team arrived, officials said.
Over two years have passed since firefighter Mark Falkenhan was killed at an apartment fire on Dowling Circle in Towson. His death resulted, in part, from a collapse of the Incident Command System (ICS), when first-arriving units were faced with heavy fire and multiple rescues. ICS is a procedural policy for ensuring that command and control mechanisms are continually utilized during mitigation efforts at every incident. “Command” is assumed by the officer of the first-arriving unit and passed to the responding chief officer upon his or her arrival.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts investigations of fires that result in firefighter deaths. Among the recommendations made by the NIOSH investigation of the Dowling Circle fire was the following: “Increase command officer staffing to ensure fire fighter safety during emergency operations.”
Despite the clear findings of the NIOSH, very few operational changes have been implemented by the Baltimore County Fire Department to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, and nothing has been done to improve command staffing.
In fact, Baltimore County has fewer on-duty command officers (per capita) than any other department in the metro area. Baltimore County has only three command officers on duty at any given time. Similar-sized jurisdictions (Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City) typically have six to 10 command officers on duty. These departments understand how essential it is to provide adequate command and control on the fireground by enabling command officers to reach the incident scene quickly.
By virtue of the limited number of command officers in Baltimore County, each officer is responsible for a very large geographic area (battalion). Therefore, response times for command officers are excessive. It is not unusual for battalion chiefs to take 20 or even 25 minutes to respond to an incident. These chiefs arrive too late to command incidents during the critical early stages of the fire attack, which is typically when things go wrong — sometimes very wrong.
On Jan. 11, 2011, it took approximately 20 minutes for the initial battalion chief to arrive at the fire that claimed Mark Falkenhan’s life. Upon arrival, that chief immediately made the determination that the building was not safe for interior firefighting operations; he ordered the evacuation of the building. Seconds later, Mark transmitted the “Mayday,” signaling that he was trapped in a third floor apartment. What would have happened if the battalion chief had arrived one minute (or even 30 seconds) earlier that day?
This past Wednesday, firefighter Gene Kirchner, 25, of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company was critically injured during a house fire with people trapped. Although the facts surrounding his injuries are yet to be determined, it seems highly likely that in this case too, his injuries resulted in part from the delayed response of a command officer. The command officer was responding from the Woodlawn/Catonsville area, as would normally be the case. A response from that location to Reisterstown takes about 15 minutes.
I joined the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1987, when the department had six battalion chiefs on duty on each shift. Today, there are just three battalion chiefs on duty on each shift. Each chief oversees 16-20 stations. Each chief covers more than 200 square miles. Unlike other departments in the region that assign multiple chief officers on structure fires, Baltimore County dispatches just one. Baltimore County’s fire and EMS personnel are at unacceptable risk of injury and death because there are too few command officers.
I retired as a division chief in February 2012. Throughout my tenure, I remained vehemently opposed to the reduction in command staff that occurred during the 1990s. There are a number of reasons I decided to retire, but my inability to convince the administration of the need to improve command staffing levels (especially in light of Mark’s death) was certainly a factor. I didn’t want to be the chief-in-charge of an incident at which we lost another firefighter whose death might have been prevented by enhancing command staffing.
Two months following my retirement, I met with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. I wanted him to hear from me how dire this situation is. I told him I feared that if command staffing did not improve, another incident would claim the life of a firefighter in Baltimore County. To Gene, the Kirchner family, and to all my brothers and sisters in the Baltimore County Fire Service, I’m praying I was wrong.
Above is audio from alertpage of this morning’s mayday at a fire in Baltimore County, Maryland that left Reisterstown VFC Firefighter Gene Kirchner in critical condition. Firefighter Kirchner was found unconscious on the 2nd floor. A 58-year-old man was found dead in the house. The mayday call is heard at 6:45 into the video. Time has been condensed for this recording with pauses removed. Below is an update to this morning’s story.
The dwelling, a two-story Victorian, was used as a few separate apartments, and was less than a quarter-mile from the closest fire company, so they arrived quickly. On arrival they had heavy fire and smoke. When they went inside, they found Steven Stark, 58, on the second floor. He was taken to Northwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
At some point, volunteer Firefighter Gene Kirchner, 24, issued a mayday call from inside the home. Firefighters found him unconscious, rescued him and transported him to Northwest Hospital, then to Baltimore Shock Trauma, where his condition is critical. What happened and why is unknown yet.
Steven Stark, 58, of the unit block of Hanover Road, was found in an upstairs hallway of his home during an intense search and rescue effort and transported to Northwest Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, said Captain Rich Schenning, a department spokesman.
Kirchner, whose exact age was not immediately available, was resuscitated at the scene and transported to Northwest Hospital Center before being transferred to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was listed in critical condition Wednesday morning, Schenning said.
Firefighters conducting a secondary search of the home located Stark, Schenning said.
Firefighters were met by heavy fire and smoke. When they went inside, they said they found Steven Stark, 58, on the second floor. He was taken to Northwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Baltimore County fire officials said a volunteer firefighter, identified as Gene Kirchner, 24, issued a mayday call and collapsed inside the home. Crews found him and took him to Northwest Hospital. He was then transferred to Shock Trauma, where his condition isn’t known.
Officials said the bulk of the fire was held to the back portion of the house. Fire investigators are still looking for the cause. 11 News has learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in to assist.
NIOSH released reports into the line of duty deaths of two firefighters whose deaths we covered. Below are the reports and some related links. Both men’s names will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial during Memorial Weekend, October 6 & 7.
January 19, 2011, Baltimore County, MD, Firefighter Mark Falkenhan:
The first fire, at 9600 Gettysburg Ave. in Fort Howard, was reported at 9:58 p.m. Saturday and involved a vacant dwelling that was being renovated, officials said. The fire spread to an adjacent wooded area, officials said, adding that approximately 150 fire personnel responded. The fire was under control at 11:37 p.m., officials said.
Video early this morning from Michael “FirePix1075” Schwartzberg at an apartment fire in Randallstown, Maryland (Baltimore County). Here’s Michael’s description:
Two Randallstown apartment buildings were heavily damaged by an early-morning fire on Sunday, July 15. The blaze started shortly after 12:30 a.m. at 8504 Glen Michael Lane (Fire Box 18-3) and spread to the adjoining 8506 building, where flames pushed through the roof and 20 feet into the air. Baltimore County Fire Department Engine and Truck 18 (Randallstown career station) were the first units on the scene and reported heavy fire showing. As the fire grew in intensity, a 2nd alarm was called, bringing additional units to the scene. Baltimore County fire investigators are investigating the cause and origin. No injuries were reported but the American Red Cross was called to assist several dozen people who were displaced.
It has been so long since we have had video from Michael “FirePix1075″ Scwartzberg that I was certain they had banned all fires in Baltimore County, Maryland. But Michael was on the scene early Friday morning at this fire in a garden style apartment building in Reisterstown.
Above is Michael’s video and below are two more videos found on YouTube.
Baltimore County Fire Department:
An early morning fire heavily damaged an apartment unit in the Reisterstown section of Baltimore County. The fire at 3 Caraway Road was reported shortly after 2 a.m. First arriving crews had fire through the roof of the complex and they quickly called for 2nd alarm. Initially people were reported trapped in the building, but fire crews quickly performed two searches and found that all residents had self-evacuated. The fire was quickly contained to the middle of the group apartment building, although there were light smoke conditions in both 1 and 5 Caraway Road. Approximately 50 firefighters and 20 pieces of fire apparatus responded to the scene. A total of 11 individual units were damaged by the fire. Two civilian required medical attention at the scene of the fire. Both were transported to Northwest Hospital, one by county medic, and one asked to be taken by family member. There were no injuries to any firefighters. Fire Investigators were on the scene, and the fire remains under investigation at this time.
In fairness to those units involved in this incident, the investigating team had the advantage of examining this incident over the period of several months. Furthermore, given the size and nature of the event, and the fact that arriving crews were met with serious fire conditions and several residents trapped and in immediate danger, all personnel should be commended for their efforts for performing several rescues which prevented an even greater tragedy. The team did not identify a particular primary reason for FF Falkenhan’s death. What were identified were many secondary issues involving but not limited to crew integrity, incident command, strategy and tactics, and communications. These issues are identified and discussed, and recommendations are made in appropriate sections of the report, as well as in a consolidated format in the Appendix.
Some of the issues identified in this report may require some type of change to current practices, policies, procedures or equipment. Most, however, do not. Specifically, the analysis and recommendations regarding Incident Command and Strategy and Tactics show that if current policies and procedures are adhered to, the opportunity for catastrophic problems may be reduced.
Mark Falkenhan was a well-respected and experienced firefighter. He died performing his duties during a very complex incident with severe fire conditions and unique fire behavior coupled with the immediate need to perform multiple rescues of victims in imminent danger. It would be easy if one particular failure of the system could be identified as the cause of this tragedy. We could fix it and move on. Unfortunately it is not that simple. No incident is “routine”. Mark’s death and this report reinforce that fact.
Heavy rains on ground already saturated by Hurricane Irene kept firefighters busy in and around Baltimore County. There have been numerous water rescue calls in the western and northern part of the county and northern Howard County. Many of these areas have not seen rising waters like this since Tropical Storm Agnes in June, 1972.
In one operation six firefighters from Baltimore County had a bit of a close call after one rescue boat capsized and another got stuck.Two of the firefighters ended up clinging to trees.
A swift water rescue boat carrying two firefighters capsized in the Patapsco River near Catonsville while they responded to rescue calls near the Howard County line, said Baltimore County spokeswoman Elise Armacost. Four firefighters had to bail out of another boat that got stuck, but all six were eventually accounted for.
Baltimore County firefighter Jason Porrovicchio. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
After the boat flipped in the current, fire specialist Donald Pruitt was able to cling to a tree, but firefighter Jason Porrovicchio said he ended up about 300 yards downstream. There, he held tight to a branch in the water rushing fast enough to knock down trees until it broke and he managed to swim out.
“It was scary,” Porrovicchio said. “It was my first time as a victim.”
Porrovicchio made his way upstream to help rescue Pruitt, who had been holding on to a tree for half an hour. Other rescuers were then able to pull him to safety.
When they got out, Porrovicchio says the men hugged and then they were checked out by medics. Pruitt was taken to an area hospital with a shoulder injury.
A firefighter was rescued from swift water in the Catonsville area after he became trapped during a rescue operation. Elise Armacost, with the Baltimore County Fire Department, told ABC2 News that one firefighter was pulled to safety after clinging to a tree.
Five other firefighters were able to swim to safety after the went into the water.
Maryland’s police officers and firefighters who have died in the line of duty during the past year will be honored at the 26th Annual Fallen Heroes Day Ceremony on Friday, May 6, 2011, 1:00 p.m. at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Fallen Heroes Day is the only statewide ceremony in the nation that brings together all segments of the public safety community. The ceremony salutes police and correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical and rescue personnel who risk their lives everyday to protect the citizens of Maryland.
The 2011 Fallen Heroes Day ceremony will honor Sgt. Hector Ayala, Montgomery County Police, who died just before the 2010 ceremony (April 4, 2010); TFC Wesley Brown, MD State Police, Forestville (June 11, 2010); Baltimore Police Officer James Fowler, III (September 27, 2010); Baltimore Police Officer Thomas Portz, Jr. (October 20, 2010); Baltimore Police Officer William Torbit, Jr. (January 9, 2011); and Firefighter/Paramedic Mark Falkenhan, Lutherville Volunteer Fire Department (January 19, 2011).
The high winds in Maryland on Saturday took its toll at a building fire in Baltimore County. The video above was shot by Michael “FirePix1075” Schwartzberg at a bail bond business on Pulaski Highway. Here’s Michael’s description of the fire:
Around 2 p.m. Saturday, February 19, Baltimore County firefighters were dispatched to Fire Box 16-9, reporting a fire in Strong Arm Bail Bonds, located at 8555 Pulaski Highway. Firefighters from the Golden Ring station — Engine 16 – arrived first on the scene and reported smoke showing from a 1 story commercial building. Firefighters attempted to make an interior attack but the heavy smoke and flames, combined with strong winds, forced crews to evacuate the building and make an exterior attack. The bail bonds occupancy and the adjoining Bed World were destroyed as a result of the fire.
Since early this morning the area around your Nation’s Capital has been hit hard with winds, sparking numerous brush fires and threatening and burning some homes. Fires are still burning. We will add info to this entry over the next couple of hours. In the meantime you can listen live to some of the area departments.
The winds toppled the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.
Prince George’s County ordered the call back of career personnel to handle the numerous large fires. Two of the largest fires are at opposite ends of the county. One is in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. It forced the shut down of part of the adjacent I-95. Another fire still burning out of control along Piscataway Road. It has required mutual aid from Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. Maryland units are assisting PGFD from as far away as Baltimore City and Caroline and Queen Anne’s Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (about 65 miles)..
The fires moved so fast that a brush unit from Baden VFD was burned and a pumper from Belstville had to be quickly moved.
North of the Washington area, Baltimore County has been dealing with a number of multi-alarm building fires since last night, plus numerous brush fires today.
I-95 was also closed for a while in the Dale City area of Prince William County due to a fire near the rest stop. See the picture above.
The morning started in Prince George’s County with a hint as to what was to come with the fire above (video provided by Firefighter Close Calls) at 8400 Potomac Avenue in the College Park area. Here is info from PGFD’s Mark Brady:
Firefighters were alerted around 6:00 am, Saturday, February 19, 2011, to a house fire in the 8400 block of Potomac Avenue. Upon arrival firefighters were met with a challenging scene involving a 2-story wood frame home fully involved with fire, rapid wind driven extension to homes on either side, two sheds on fire in back yards and a natural gas fire on the exterior of one of the neighbors houses.
With high winds and rapid extension with additional structures in imminent danger; the Incident Commander requested a Second Alarm, bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene.
It required nearly an hour for the bulk of the fire to be extinguished and another 2 hours to completely extinguish the fire in the house of origin. Firefighters kept the exterior natural gas fire in check and were able to extinguish that fire after Washington Gas Company workers shut off the natural gas main at about 8:30 am.
Late morning, at the far south end of Prince George’s County, a brush fire was reported near the Chalk Point Power Plant. I believe this is the fire that damaged Baden’s BR 36, a 1964 Ford.
Not too long after that, a fire that has required a lot of resources through the day was reported in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. This is the fire just west of I-95. It caused major traffic problems along the highway. The video above is some of the smoke from that fire that I shot while in the area this afternoon. Below are details from Brady released at 1:49 PM:
The largest incident involves about 100 acres of 30 foot high piles of mulch. The brush fire has extended about 2 miles over to Interstate 95. This fire has been burning since 12 noon and is still considered out of control.
In the video above a driver shows conditions on I-95 South near the Beltsville fire. The most interesting part is around 7:20 as Foam Unit 812 from College Park responds to a fire in the median strip of the highway.
Brady also announced a cancellation because of the fire. The event was to be hold where the initial staging area was located:
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has been forced to require the cancellation of the charity ice hockey event at the Ice House on Old Gunpowder Road.
This event was a game between Washington Capitals Alumni and public safety officers.
Also on the north end PGFD had a fire at Laurel Mall (short clip above). Brady reports during the 2:00 PM hour, “firefighters arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory, 14700 Baltimore Avenue, with a fire that appears to have started in a dumpster outside the building. The high winds blew the fire into the loading docks and inside the building.”
The picture above, courtesy of Firefighter Close Calls, is from a fire on Decatur Street and shows what PGFD and other departments have been dealing with today.
The other major fire tapping the region’s resources is along Piscataway Road between Clinton and Fort Washington. That battle began when a battalion chief rolled up on a couple of old structures burning on Gallahan Road. Here is Brady’s report at 4:46 PM:
A brush fire that appears to have started at a farm on Gallahan Road spread quickly driven by high winds. The fire damaged as many as 20 structures that include homes (some abandoned), sheds and barns. This incident escalated quickly to a third alarm with about 30 pieces of fire apparatus on location with about 120 firefighters working to extinguish the fires.
Damage to occupied homes are minor to moderate. No civilian or firefighter injuries have been reported.
Command post is set up at Piscataway Road and Windbrook Drive.
Below are news reports from around the region on the fires and high winds from WJLA-TV:
House fire in Wheeling, Illinois: Firegeezer.com has the Larry Shapiro pictures and details to go with the video above from what started out as a dryer fire Saturday morning.
Can we laugh at ourselves?: The topic is the first two webisodes of the series Hosed on YouTube (webisode 1 here and webisode 2 here). Did you laugh at Reno 911? For the Firegeezer crowd, how about Car 54 Where are You? Do you believe that Rescue Me makes the public think all New York firefighters are drug addicts, sex addicts, philanderers and wife beaters? The large majority of people who commented so far on STATter911.com about comedian Juston McKinney’s Hosed think it is just a funny series of shorts about a fictional volunteer fire department in New Hampshire. And like all good satire, it has some characters many of us can identify with. Others see it is something more sinister. That Dave Statter is running it because he is anti-volunteer. Does anyone out there honestly think I wouldn’t post them if this was about a fictional career fire department? Some who have written comments to STATter911.com and Firefighter Nation’s Facebook page believe Hosed does nothing but make volunteers look bad. Should volunteer firefighters be off limits to comedians? Bill Carey at Backstep Firefighter put together some of those comments and provides his own unique response.
Raw video from mayday in Southern Maryland: In Calvert County there was a mayday during a house fire on Saturday in Lusby. Raw video shows a firefighter being carried from the building. There is a lot of video to look at with this clip. Click here.
Is a 1997 fire leaving a deadly legacy?: That’s the question being asked in Hamilton, Ontario following the deaths and serious illness of firefighters who were on the Plastimet fire 14-years-ago. TheSpec.com reports the four day industrial blaze had such high levels of hydrochloric acid that metal on fire trucks melted. Check out the story.
Connecticut’s OSHA cites Bridgeport in firefighter deaths: Click here to read what CONN-OSHA listed as violations following its investigation into the deaths last year of Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michael Baik. The department is fighting the charges. You will also see that Dave takes a little swipe at the news media coverage of this story.
He does more than make us laugh & stir trouble … he even shows up at a fire every so often: Will Wyatt recently had to go underground after exposing the world to TIMIS in his FireRescue1.com column (click here for the column and the comments). Rather than to organize a telethon to wipe out this awful syndrome, Will just went into hiding. But he surfaced last week at his real job and snapped the picture to the right of a two-alarm apartment fire in Harris County, Texas. If you want to read about the fire and see some video, click here. By the way, Tiger Schmittendorf is the latest to discover that Will’s book And a Paycheck, Too! is quite funny (click here to buy it). Tiger plans to have Will on his Firefighter Storytellers netcast in April (check out Tiger’s other shows, including his recent interview with Fire Chief’s Janet Wilmoth).
Even checking fire hydrants isn’t safe: In Syracuse, New York, a firefighter making sure hydrants are clear of snow found himself threatened by a knife wielding man. Click here for the story.
Two-alarms in Baltimore County, Maryland: The picture at left is from Michael “firepix1075” Schwartzberg from a house fire yesterday in Chestnut Ridge. Click here for his video. Here’s what Michael wrote about the fire-
“Units reported smoke showing while responding, and when units from nearby Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company arrived they were met with heavy smoke in the rear of the house, where the fire possibly started on a porch. The fire extended into the attic and roof area and flames vented through the roof. Access to the house was extremely limited, making firefighting operations challenging. This area has no fire hydrants, so firefighters had to use a tanker shuttle, bringing water from a hydrant more than a mile away via fire department water tankers.”
Response time concerns in Minneapolis: The union, worried about budget and staffing cuts that have occurred, and possibly more on the way, says 11 minutes is too long for a ladder truck to show up on the scene of a house fire. That’s what happened Saturday on Beard Avenue South. The fire chief says he is looking into it. So is a TV station. Click here to read and watch the story.
Early arrival of photographer for Burrillville, Rhode Island explosion & fire: Matt Gregoire from has the first units on the scene as a garage fire extends to the attached home on Mt. Pleasant Road yesterday. The homeowner was seriously burned. The fire went to a second alarm. More at providencefirevideos.com.
Captain Steve Weatherby of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company in Baltimore County, Maryland asked that we share this letter of thanks for all who reached out to them following the recent death of Firefighter Mark Falkenhan.
Video from Michael “FirePix1075” Schwartzberg in Towson, Maryland last night at the Charles Village Pub. Baltimore County firefighters brought in two alarms to handle the fire in a popular gathering spot for Towson University students. The building is at 19 West Pennsylvania Avenue. One firefighter suffered a minor injury. Here’s Michael’s description of the fire:
The fire reportedly began in the kitchen and quickly spread to the building’s second floor, with flames coming through the roof. Firefighters were dispatched around 730 p.m., found heavy smoke and fire showing on arrival, with exposure buildings threatened, and quickly called for a second alarm. More than 100 firefighters fought the fire for 3 hours until it was put under control.
Click the image for Michael Schwartzberg’s photos from the fire.
Above is video from WMAR-TV of yesterday’s funeral for Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan. Falkenhan’s 14-year-old son Christian rode on Lutherville’s 1954 Mack that took his father to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.
The word “hero” gets used too often to describe the most pedestrian of admirable behaviors, from the star quarterback who marches his team for a winning score to the kid who finds a missing wallet and turns it in. But exceptional bravery, special ability, exceptional deeds and noble qualities — those are what define an authentic hero, and Mr. Falkenhan lacked for none of them.
It was not by accidental circumstance or naiveté that he ended up on the third story of that Hillendale apartment complex in the midst of a fire, searching for missing residents. He knew the risks as well as anyone could. But his selfless desire to help others drove him forward into the flames.
That’s what made him exceptional. That’s why his legacy is important. That’s why the community is in his debt.
WUSA-TV in Washington, DC (with assistance from CNN & WBAL-TV), has been kind enough to provide live streaming of the pool camera inside Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore during the funeral this morning for Firefighter Mark Falkenhan of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company in Baltimore County. Firefighter Falkenhan was killed last Wednesday during an apartment fire. The funeral is scheduled for 11:00 AM EST.
You can find previous coverage of the death of Firefighter Falkenhan here, here, here and here
Early video from a house fire in Los Angeles: A neighbor is rolling as LAFD stretches the first lines at 1324 N. Sunderland Street in Echo Park on Friday. Check out the Fire Critic if you want to know more about the fire. Speaking of the Fire Critic, Rhett totally dissed me, and along with his panel of so-called experts or judges, went against my wishes and made STATter911.com a finalist in his Blog of the Century contest. My general philosophy is much like Grouch Marx’s (someone in Roanoke please explain who that was to Rhett), and I never want to join a club that would have someone like me as a member. That said, since they didn’t go for the nomination I suggested, I am not backing any candidates (probably smart considering my dismal record of being 0 for 2 in that arena). Click here to vote your conscience (or whoever offers you the most money). And next time Rhett, do away with the primaries and the hype and let the people speak.
Firefighter Mark Falkenhan to be buried today: If live streaming is available of the funeral for Lutherville VFC’s Mark Falkenhan we will, of course, have it here. For those attending the funeral at 11:00 this morning in Baltimore, click here for updated details.
Fire chief gets a lot of praise for failure: Typical negative spin from the reporter. The comments coming in to STATter911.com indicate that Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Acting Chief Mark Bashoor showed a lot of leadership completing the CPAT course on Saturday. While he went into a little overtime, our readers thought it was an excellent showing for the 45-year-old chief. I think the next step, if we can get an EMS task force to standby, should be a regional chiefs competition (notice Statter isn’t pushing for a washed-up reporters event). Click here for the video of Chief Bashoor in action. It’s well worth seeing.
Two-alarm townhouse fire with flashover & three injured firefighters: We have video from Paul Lof and fireground audio from AlertPage.net of Saturday’s fire in Springfield, Virginia that critically injured a resident and left a trio of firefighters with minor injuries. Click here for our coverage.
Carrying Josephine Harris once again: We mentioned last week the passing of Josephine Harris, the woman who survived the crumbling of the WTC North Tower with the crew of FDNY’s Ladder 6. On Friday, those same firefighters who carried Ms. Harris to safety, carried their guardian angel once again. Click here to read and watch the story.
Come see me: I had a great and informative time in Phoenix last week for the IAFF-IAFC Labor Management Initiative gathering. I plan to write more about that in the coming days. Next month come join me in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the Virginia Fire Chief’s Association 2011 Mid-Atlantic Expo & Symposium (February 24-27). Click here for details and to register for the event.
UPDATE – FD to change logo: One of the topics I talked about in Phoenix is how you should deal with the press when there is an issue involving a department’s reputation. A Long Island fire company did the opposite of what I suggest and stretched the bad news into a multi-day story. After first threatening and running from the press, the Elmont FD has now decided to change its logo that included a version of the Confederate flag. Here’s the update. The outcome of this was quite predictable. The pattern is repeated daily. Learn from the mistake. Here’s my earlier assessment of the situation.
FossilMedic blows a kiss to our friends in NC: Nice little write-up by Mike Ward at Firegeezer about three lensmen from NC, Mike Legeros, Lee Wilson and Jeff Harkey. These guys work hard to grab the shots and keep people informed about the fire world in Raleigh, Wake County and beyond. Check it out. Okay Ward, now that you’ve made nice, let’s do a little investigating and find out what’s really going on. Don’t these three seem just a little too competent, talented and pleasant?
No jail time for firefighter who spooked herd: The plea deal apparently kept UK Firefighter Julian Lawford out of jail in that now infamous case of Lawford trying to drive his rig through a herd of cows crossing the road. The stampede left a farmer dead. Lawford was heading to a car crash with a child trapped. Here’s the latest.
No indictment against driver of vehicle in wreck that killed two Virginia firefighters: I missed this while traveling last week, but IronFiremen.com’s Willie Wines did not. A grand jury did not hand up an indictment against the driver of a vehicle connected to last summer’s tragic crash in Rocky Mount. Click here.
Manhole not for horses: Firefighters in Houston spent part of Saturday trying to rescue a horse that fell into an uncovered manhole. The horse had to be put down. Here’s the story.
Similar problem in Utah with much better results: On Sunday, Saratoga Springs firefighters rescued a young girl who fell into an uncovered manhole. Read the details.
Congratulations to some of the people who protect me: Fairfax County firefighters from Station 408 in Annandale received a Liberty Mutual Firemark Award for a fire a year ago this week. Check out the story from VAFireNews.com.
FDNY in action: The New York Daily News currently has this nicely shot fire video from Bedford-Stuyvesant posted on its website. But no date or exact location is provided that I can see.
A reminder that the viewing for Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan who was killed during an apartment fire last Wednesday continues tonight from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Ruhl Armory, 1035 York Road in Towson, Maryland.
The funeral is at 11:00 AM on Monday at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N Charles St in Baltimore. Firefighter Falkenhan will be buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Fallen Heroes Section, 200 East Padonia Road in Timonium.
Baltimore County Fire Department Division Chief Michael Robinson asked us to pass along this information about the funeral.
Line of Duty Funeral: 1/24/11
FF Mark G. Falkenhan
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen: 5200 North Charles Street, Baltimore Maryland
Take I-83 from the Baltimore Beltway (695) to exit 9A –Cold Spring Lane (East) to Left on North Charles Street to the Cathedral. Personnel will direct from that point.
Funeral specific information:
Weather forecast calls for highs of 20-25 degrees with no precipitation
Personnel are encouraged to “carpool” parking is extremely limited
Apparatus should arrive by 0815 and other vehicles by 0900
Uniform of the day is Class “A” or if not issued Class “B” with Blauer jacket
Appropriate clothing for the cold: “layering is encouraged”
All badges are to be covered by “mourning bands”
Blauer jackets may be worn until the procession arrives/lineup of personnel and at other times when not in official formations.
Reflective type issued coats shall be removed in church once seated
Honor Guard personnel will provide direction on line-up position etc.
Seating is limited to approximately 1500 so all may not be seated in the church-
Rehab to include: food, drinks, sanitation, medical and heated shelter will be provided at the site.
Ground support is available on site and can be accessed via logistics @ICP
Following the funeral, the procession will be initiated and specific instructions will be provided to the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. No apparatus will be parked in the cemetery and the BCOPD will provide that direction upon your arrival.
The incident command post (ICP) can be contacted via TG-195 or 8tac-93 (NPSPAC) for out of county units –radio designation “funeral command”
News release from the Baltimore County Fire Department:
The Baltimore County fire community today mourns the loss of Mark G. Falkenhan, the Lutherville volunteer firefighter who died in last night’s four-alarm blaze at a Hillendale apartment complex.
In addition to his affiliation with Lutherville VFC, Falkenhan, 43, was a member of Baltimore County’s career fire department for 16 years, from 1990 to 2006. He was a paramedic/firefighter whose assignments included the Fire-Rescue Academy, where he was an instructor. He served at many stations, including Woodlawn, Dundalk, Golden Ring, Essex, Eastview and Fullerton.
Falkenhan resigned in 2006 and was most recently employed with the U.S. Secret Service.
In addition to his membership at Lutherville, he was a life member and past chief of the Middle River Volunteer Ambulance Rescue Co.
The call for the fire at 30 Dowling Circle came in to fire dispatchers at 6:18 p.m. The call came in as a kitchen fire; however, fire investigators have not determined that the fire originated in the kitchen. The fire remains under investigation. Fire Chief John Hohman has asked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for assistance.
Engine 11 was the first-arriving engine. The fire quickly escalated to a second-alarm, and eventually four alarms worth of equipment were dispatched. About 30 pieces of fire equipment and 100 fire personnel responded.
At some point, Falkenhan called a mayday, indicating he was in distress. He was on the third floor, searching for fire victims. His partner was able to escape through a window on the third floor. Firefighters found Falkenhan on the third floor and moved him to the balcony, where crews delivered him to paramedics. Medic personnel administered advanced life support measures and transported him to St. Joseph Medical Center.
Fire crews rescued two civilians who were critically injured. An adult female was transported to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center, and an adult male was transported to Sinai Hospital.
Firefighters contained the fire to a single garden-apartment building. About 30 residents were displaced. Baltimore County’s Office of Emergency Management has been working with the Red Cross and the building management to help those victims. There are twenty residents have been able to return to their apartments.
A firefighter has not died while engaged in firefighting operations in Baltimore County since the Shiller’s furniture store fire in Dundalk 26 years ago, where three firefighters were lost.
Standard Fire Department procedures call for a full investigation of any line of duty death. That investigation already is under way.
Falkenhan is survived by his wife, Gladys, and two children aged 14 and five
Mark Falkenhan was also an Emergency Services Specialist with the United States Secret Service. He began work there in 2006. According to the USSS, “As part of the Emergency Medicine Section at the James J. Rowley Training Center, he was not only responsible for providing emergency medicine, rescue and fire-fighting services at the training facility, but was responsible for training Secret Service agents,officers and other critical response employees to respond to life threatening incidents.”
Statement from U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan on the death of Emergency Services Specialist Mark Falkenhan:
On Wednesday evening, January 19, the U.S. Secret Service lost not only a dedicated employee, but a close friend, colleague and public servant. Mark Falkenhan, a four-year employee of the Secret Service and a firefighter with the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company, died while responding to a four-alarm fire in Maryland.
Mark is one of many Secret Service employees who volunteer their off-duty time to local fire and emergency rescue departments. Mark’s devotion to public service was indicative of the strength of character he possessed and we share in the grief of his loss.
The Secret Service family is focused on supporting Mark’s family and colleagues through this difficult time.
It is with deep regret that we advise you of the Line of Duty Death of Baltimore County FF Mark Falkenhan, 43. Mark was killed this evening after becoming trapped and calling a mayday in a multi-family dwelling fire and suffering massive burns. FF Falkenhan had recently left as a career Baltimore County FF to take a position with the United States Secret Service. However, he was an active member of Baltimore County’s Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company (Station 30), a part of the Baltimore County FD. Mark was also an Instructor with MFRI, the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute. He leaves his wife and 2 children, ages 10 & 13 behind.
At around 6:15 p.m., Baltimore County emergency 911 dispatch received a call about a kitchen fire at 30 Dowling Circle in the Towson Crossing apartment complex.
When the first firefighters from the Hillendale fire station arrived, flames could be seen on the second floor of the three-story, 12-unit apartment building, Baltimore County Fire Division Chief Michael Robinson said.
“They had fire showing and reports of multiple subjects trapped,” Robinson said. “Our crews immediately went to work and were able to make several rescues, including two civilians … The fire quickly escalated to a second alarm.”
Firefighters had to make a third rescue: A fellow firefighter was trapped.
“At 6:47, what is known as a ‘Mayday,’ which is a distress call, was signaled,” Robinson said. “The incident commander picked up on that. … The crews go into a rescue mode.”
Falkenhan’s death comes just eight days after his uncle, William Falkenhan, a retired firefighter himself, died.
Baltimore County paramedic Lt. Sam Snyder knew both Falkenhans well and spoke with Mark at his uncle’s viewing.
“He always kept in touch with everyone and stayed active through volunteering,” Snyder added. “Plus, he was such a great husband and father. He always talked about his sons. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
The initial call went out at 6:18 p.m. as a kitchen fire in the Towson Crossing apartment complex at 30 Dowling Circle and was quickly upgraded, Armacost said. About 20 minutes later, Falkenhan sent out a “mayday” distress call, Armacost said.
She said Falkenhan’s partner leapt from the third-floor window and crews eventually found Falkenhan on a third-floor balcony.
Baltimore County Fire Chief John J. Hohman identified the fallen firefighter as Mark Falkenhan, 43, a volunteer member of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Co.
“I just left the hospital, and we lost a firefighter this evening at this scene,” Hohman said. “I knew him personally. (I) met him on his first day on the job when he came to work with us. He was a friend and he a great person.”
Hohman said preliminary informaiton indicated that a fire ignited in a basement kitchen, but conditions were too intense for firefighters to enter the building immediately.
“The fire was knocked and crews moved to the second and third floors to search for any possible victims,” Hohman said. “A flashover occurred. One firefighter escaped successfully, one firefighter succumbed to his injuries at the hospital and passed away.”
“We have an inherently dangerous profession,” Hohman said. “We will pull together and we will make certain that our all procedures were followed, and if not, (we will identify) what we can learn from this.”