Michael R. Goodwin, Sr.,Captain, Philadelphia Fire Department, Badge # 2773, passed away tragically serving the citizens of Philadelphia on April 6, 2013.Beloved husband of Kelly (nee McDonnell). Loving Dad of Dorothy Dunn (Timothy) and Michael R., Jr. Loving Pop of Timothy Jr. and Bailey Dunn. Dear son of Elizabeth and the late James Goodwin, brother of James (Kelly), Robert (Brenda) and Deborah Goodwin, brother in law of Thomas McDonnell (Joann). Also Surviving are many nieces and nephews. Mike was a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department for over 29 years. He became a firefighter on September 9, 1983, Class # 153. Mike proudly served in the U.S. Navy as an E-4 and was honorably discharged on August 27, 1983. Mike was awarded many commendations while serving the citizens of Philadelphia. He was a Philadelphia Sports fan but the most important aspect of Michael’s life was his family. Relatives, friends, members of Philadelphia Fire Department Local 22 and all first responders are invited to share in Mike’s Life Celebration Wednesday from 5:00- 9:00 PM and Thursday morning from 9:00 to 10:45 AM at John F. Givnish of Academy Rd. 10975 Academy Rd. Michael’s Life Celebration Service will be held at 12:00 Noon at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 2139 E. Cumberland St. Interment Hillside Cemetery, Roslyn, PA. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions in Mike’s memory to the Firefighters Widow Fund c/o Local 22, 415 N. 5th St. Phila, PA 19123 would be appreciated. To share your fondest memories of Mike visit www.lifecelebration.com.
The mayor of Philadelphia on Sunday ordered flags flown at half-staff and called for prayers for the family and colleagues of a veteran fire captain killed when a roof collapsed beneath him as he battled a blaze, the third city firefighter killed in the line of duty in a year.
Capt. Michael Goodwin, 53, plunged onto the second-floor roof of the three-story building in the Fabric Row section during Saturday night’s blaze. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Fellow firefighter Andrew Godlewski, 28, burned on his hands while trying to rescue Goodwin, was discharged Sunday from a hospital, officials said.
“We must never forget the grave risks that these heroic public servants take every day at a moment’s notice on behalf of us all,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement Sunday.
At an emotional news conference late Saturday, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers called Goodwin, a 29-year veteran, “a really good person.”
“He was the kind of guy who looked out for his folks,” he said. “A ladder man. A firefighter’s firefighter.”
Goodwin is survived by a wife, two grown children and three siblings, one of whom is a police officer, he said.
Police officers and fellow firefighters saluted Goodwin’s body, draped in an American flag, as it was carried to a hospital and, later, to a funeral home.
The loss came as the fire department prepared to mark a year since an April 9 blaze at a warehouse that killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25. They also died in a collapse, which came as they inspected an adjacent building.
“We have a department that is wounded,” Ayers said. “We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened.”
Nutter ordered flags flown at half-staff at all city buildings for the next 30 days in Goodwin’s honor, officials said.
At Goodwin’s fire station deep in south Philadelphia, bouquets were clustered on and around a wooden bench along with a large toy fire truck and ladder.
The American Red Cross of southeastern Pennsylvania said 17 residents were displaced by the blaze, and three of them needed financial help with hotels, food and clothing.
At the scene Sunday afternoon, a fire hose planted in the middle of the street sprayed a jet of water onto the remains of the building, which had collapsed into a pile that stretched over the sidewalk in between two other three-story row homes. Meals and counseling were being provided for grieving firefighters, the Red Cross said.
The blaze appeared to have started in a fabric store downstairs before spreading to upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique, the store’s owner said. The proprietors of both stores told The Philadelphia Inquirer that everyone in both buildings at the time of the fire managed to escape.
The fire’s cause wasn’t immediately known, but Bruce Blumenthal, the owner of Jack B. Fabrics, said he believes it started in a wall and may have been electrical in nature. Blumenthal said he smelled smoke coming from the basement at around 5 p.m. and found a box of collars and cuffs on fire. He tried to put the flames out with an extinguisher to no avail, he said.
Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
UPDATED: Philadephia Fire Department Capt. Michael Goodwin, Ladder 27, killed in collapse at fabric shop. Firefighter Andrew Godlewski burned trying to save captain. Watch press conference.9 comments
A fire burned a fabric shop, upstairs apartments and a neighboring boutique Saturday evening, causing a partial roof collapse that killed a firefighter and injured a colleague who was trying to rescue him, officials said.
Captain Michael Goodwin, 53, was killed in the line of duty, Amy Daly, a nursing supervisor at Jefferson University Hospitals, told The Associated Press. Goodwin was a 29-year veteran of the fire department. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says he was killed in a fall from the third floor roof to the second.
The second firefighter, Andrew Godlinski, 28, of Ladder 2, was hospitalized with burns. Officials say he was injured while trying to rescue Captain Goodwin. He is expected to survive.
Officials say Captain Goodwin belonged to Ladder 27. His comrades saluted as his body was carried out and taken to the hospital.
Firefighters stood side by side and saluted 53-year-old Captain Michael Goodwin from Ladder 27b. He was killed in a fall from the third floor roof to the second.
The fire roared out of control for hours from the three story building on the stretch known as “Fabric Row.”
Neighbors say the fire started in the basement of a business called Jack B Fabrics and spread to other parts of the business and apartments upstairs.
Another firefighter 28-year-old Andrew Godlinski, suffered burns while trying to save his fallen captain. He was treated at a local hospital and is expected to survive.
View more videos at: http://nbcphiladelphia.com.
Engine-11 arrived on scene with smoke showing from the first floor of three story store front with apartments above. B/C-4 reported companies had trouble located the seat of the fire in the basement of fabric store. Placed all hands in service Deputy-1 requested the second alarm. Command ordered all companies out of the building and went in service with an exterior operations. Command requested the third alarm struck for heavy fire through out. Command requested a the collapse unit for a firefighter trapped after a collapse of the building.
The firefighter was recovered from the building and transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Another firefighter was burned in an attempt to rescue the trapped firefighter.
The firefighter was pronounced at the hospital. He had been the Captain of Ladder-27.
The collapse left the firefighter trapped inside the building on the street known as Fabric Row, officials said. Other firefighters saluted as his body was carried out on a stretcher and taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
The fatality came just short of a year since the last time Philadelphia firefighters died in the line of duty. A warehouse blaze in the Kensington section last April 11 killed Capt. Robert Neary, 59, and Daniel Sweeney, 25, both from Ladder 10, and injured two other firefighters.
“We have a department that is wounded,” Ayers said. “We have scars that are fresh, and indeed they have now been reopened.”
The first engine arrived four minutes after the fire call came in, Ayers said. One person inside the building at the time was taken out by firefighters, as they stretched hoses into the building and went to work.
It was 31 minutes after the initial call when the second alarm was struck. Ayers said the crews faced “faced heavy smoke, heavy fire,” adding that from the exterior you could see fabric throughout the store.
It was 6:21 p.m. when officials were informed that a member of the department was “down.” The report changed to one member “missing,” and a third alarm was struck by 6:30 p.m.
Ayers said they found out subsequently that the firefighter “had fallen from the third-floor roof to the second-floor roof.”
“Firefighters were trying to rescue him from the second-floor roof when that roof collapsed,” the fire commissioner went on to say.
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Sgt. John Michael Carter, DCFD, died 15-years-ago today. Killed in corner grocery fire at 400 Kennedy Street, NW.5 comments
Fifteen-years-ago this morning DCFD Sergeant John Michael Carter failed to make it out of a fire in a small corner grocery at 400 Kennedy Street in Northwest Washington. Sergeant Carter had fallen into the basement as his crew left the building. Today, our thoughts are with the family and many friends of John Carter.
I knew John Carter, but not extremely well. More of a passing, “Hi, how are you?” and a few words on a fireground or a wave, as he did shortly before his death during a visit to the TV station where I worked. But I learned all about John Carter two days after he was gone and it was one of the more unforgettable experiences in 38-years of covering news.
Photo of 400 Kennedy Street, NW by Dave J. Iannone. Click here for more images.
On Sunday morning, October 26, 1997, IAFF Local 36 Vice President Kenny Cox called and said that Debbie Carter wanted to do an interview with me about her husband. It was a surprise because, out of respect, we were keeping our distance and I hadn’t even requested an interview. But I consider it one of the great honors of my life to get that call.
To this day, my friend videographer Greg Guise and I are still in awe of what we witnessed. Despite this unbelievable loss occurring just two days earlier, Debbie sat perfectly composed telling us about her husband. She was not going to let tears get in the way of letting everyone know who John Carter was. There was even a proud smile on her face at times as she talked about John Carter, the firefighter, father and husband.
Photo by Dave Iannone.
But it was hard for anyone who saw the story not to shed some tears when we heard Debbie say how happy she was that very early on a chilly Friday morning she decided to get out of bed and walk out of their Maryland home to give her husband a kiss as he headed off to what turned out to be his final shift. What a lesson for us all.
I’ve said it many, many times since that interview and I will say it again. We should all be as fortunate as John Carter was to have someone speak so eloquently on our behalf once we are gone.
Unfortunately because of a change in servers at WUSA9.com a few years back, that entire interview is no longer available online. But below is a story the station did two-years-ago about a scholarship for John and Debbie’s son Brian. Brian was just eight-years-old when his dad died. In the story is a small excerpt from that 1997 interview.
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Our friends at FireNews.net have alerted us to the release of the City of Asheville (NC) Fire Department’s line of duty death report looking at the July 28, 2011 fire at 445 Biltmore Avenue that took the life of Captain Jeffrey Scott Bowen.
Chief Scott Burnette talked about some of the changes for the department outlined in the report.
Chief Scott Burnette reviewed some of the changes the department has planned during a presentation for City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday.
The chief also released the department’s 522-page internal report on the Biltmore Avenue fire that killed Capt. Jeff Bowen in July of last year.
“It is our hope that the lessons learned from the fire at 445 Biltmore Ave. will create positive improvements in the fire service as a whole,” Burnette said in a letter included with the report.
“We have sent every one of our firefighters through a rapid intervention team certification course,” said Burnette.
The new course is required by the state of North Carolina and teaches crews how to rescue a firefighter in trouble.
Burnette hopes it will help prevent another tragic loss.
“We have also added an extra fire engine to structure fire responses, so that way we can make sure we have enough personnel to serve as a rescue team,” adds Burnette.
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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:
July 28, 2011, Asheville, NC, Captain Jeff Bowen:
North Carolina Board of Transportation reverses itself. Asheville bridge now expected to be named for Capt. Jeff Bowen.3 comments
Congratulations to the Asheville Firefighters Association, the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association and the 7700 people who supported the petition drive to change the minds of the North Carolina Board of Transportation about renaming the Smoky Park Bridge after Captain Jeff Bowen who died during a medical office building fire last July. A committee voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the new name and the full board is expected to vote this morning.
The same group is also going to reconsider the long-standing practice that generally excluded firefighters, but allowed state bridges to be named after fallen law officers. The committees chairman says they are supporting the will of the people.
Here’s an excerpt from an article by Mark Barrett in the Asheville Citizen-Times:
The Naming Committee turned the idea down March 7, citing a practice by which DOT typically does not name roads or bridges for firefighters or other emergency workers who die in the line of duty, asking instead that local governments rename one of their structures.
DOT does regularly name bridges after state troopers killed on the job and other law enforcement officers have been so honored.
A Citizen-Times review of state records found that the names of two firefighters who did not die on the job adorn bridges in Western North Carolina and that elected officials make up the largest single category of honorees.
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Told no because he’s not a cop Asheville firefighters push ahead to have bridge named after fire Captain Jeff Bowen. Online petition growing.7 comments
The Asheville Fire Fighters Association in North Carolina is leading the way to change state policy on naming bridges after being turned down about naming one after Capt. Jeff Bowen. Capt. Bowen died last July during a fire in a medical office building. An online petition to rename the Smoky Park Bridge was started on Sunday and more than 6500 names are on it.
Board of Transportation policy has been to name bridges or roads after law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty or after people from all walks of life deemed to have made a significant contribution to the state.
The board has generally not extended the honor to firefighters for fear that it would have too many requests to deal with.
“I think it’s a pretty weak reason, and I think it shows disrespect for firefighters,” said Mike Marshall, president of the association.
State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, who is also state fire marshal, also weighed in on the issue Friday, expressing his “disappointment and dismay” about the decision in a letter to the chair of the Board of Transportation committee in charge of naming questions.
“I strongly believe that firefighters are deserving of our highest respect, as they are among our public servants who intentionally put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others,” wrote Goodwin, who first raised the idea of naming a road or bridge for Bowen last year.
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UPDATED: Firefighter killed in Abbotsford, Wisconsin fire. Snow covered theater roof collapsed & took life of Colby FD member. Four others injured.7 comments
UPDATED 6:15 AM
A press conference is expected to be held today to announce the identity of a firefighter from the Colby Fire Department who died yesterday after the collapse of a snow covered roof during a fire in the Abby Theater in Abbotsford, Wisconsin. Below is the latest information.
Clark County officials in central Wisconsin say a Colby firefighter died while helping fire crews from nearby Abbotsford battle a fire Sunday afternoon.
The towns are just west of Wausau.
The fire gutted the historic Abby Theatre in downtown Abbotsford.
The Abbotsford fire chief says the roof of the theatre was weighed down by snow, and collapsed during the fire.
The fire, reported at about noon, inflicted "substantial damage" to the theater in the 200 block of North First Street, Apfelbeck said. The four exterior walls were left standing, but the "roof completely collapsed," he said.
"There was a lot of heat, a lot of smoke," said Apfelbeck, soot coating his clothes and face, after most of the fire had been extinguished. "It was a bad fire."
Apfelbeck said the collapsed ceiling trapped three firefighters inside. The other two firefighters suffered injuries from falling bricks, he said.
We regret to advise you that a Firefighter from the Colby (WI) FD was killed in the Line of Duty this afternoon-while on a mutual aid fire call. The fire was in the Abby Theater in Abbotsford and is reportedly a major loss-it started around noon. At some point during the operation, several Firefighters were injured when the roof collapsed. EMS units as well as a medical helicopter transported.
Four firefighters battling the blaze were transported to the emergency room in Marshfield, including one who was airlifted by the Spirit helicopter, according to Abbotsford fire chief Jody Apfelbeck.
The ceiling caved in while firefighters were inside the theatre and an unspecified number of them were trapped, he said.
The Clark County Coroner says one of the four firefighters injured when the roof of the Abby Theatre collapsed, has died.
He isn't releasing a name at this time. NewsChannel 7 has learned a press conference is scheduled for tomorrow. A location and time have not been released.
The Clark County coroner has confirmed that one firefighter has died after a blaze at the Abby Theatre in Abbotsford.
A Nursing Supervisor at Ministry St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield says three other firefighters were treated and released.
Last Friday we told you the San Francisco Fire Department released its official report into the deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio. At the time, only a summary was available online. Now you can read the entire report:
San Francisco Fire Department releases report into deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and FF/PM Anthony Valerio. Flashover caused when glass in sliding door shattered.9 comments
An internal safety investigation on the June 2, 2011, fire at 133 Berkeley Way indicates that firefighters Lt. Vincent A. Perez and Firefighter Paramedic Anthony M. Valerio were killed by extremely high temperatures of up to 700 degrees caused by a sudden flare up, known as a flashover.
The intense fire event, which lasted several minutes, was caused when a window shattered in the room where the fire started, sending a rush of oxygen to the flames, according to the report. The heat was drawn up a stairwell from a below ground-level floor, where the fire began, to the ground-level floor where Valerio and Perez were standing.
"They were caught in a chimney," said Assistant Chief David Franklin, who worked on the team that prepared the report.
"We were well on our way to developing some of the new policies that, in some ways, could have made a difference," Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. "But basically, you'll find that the key factor was something that was a variable that we really had no control over. It was the failure of the window on the back end of the floor where Tony and Vince were."
The report describes a number of errors and communication problems at the scene and makes recommendations for how the handling of future incidents can be improved. But fire officials said the flashover was not something that could have easily been prevented or predicted.
"What Vincent and Tony did is exactly what all of us would have done," said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, noting that it is standard practice in the department to make an aggressive attack and try to get water on a fire as quickly as possible. "The key factor was something that we really had no control over."
Hayes-White said the department is developing a risk assessment policy to help determine how to approach fires, particularly in difficult situations such as that presented by the multi-level home.
Official release from the San Francisco Fire Department:
(San Francisco, CA – February 10, 2012) The San Francisco Fire Department held a press briefing today, reviewing the results of their Internal Safety Investigation related to the Line of Duty Deaths of Lt. Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio at a fire at 133 Berkeley Way on June 2, 2011.
Fire Investigators determined that the fire was accidental. The ignition source was “a nonspecific electrical sequence”, likely caused by either a failure in a ground outlet or in the appliance connected to the outlet.
The results of the Safety Investigation determined that the two Firefighters, who died as a result of internal and external thermal injuries, were conducting fire operations in a stairwell of the home above the fire room. The stairwell acted as a chimney when a large window failed in an oxygen deprived room that was below them, “causing them exposure to a rapid high heat event at temperatures that no Firefighter would have been able to survive”, said Assistant Deputy Chief Jose Velo, a member of the Safety Investigation Team.
Inspection of the Firefighters’ Personal Protective Clothing indicated that they performed according to their specifications. “We do have some concerns related to the handheld radios that all of our Firefighters carry”, said Chief Velo. “Both radio microphones appear to have failed from exposure to extreme heat conditions.”
Upon receiving the findings related to the radios, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White requested that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) research and develop a standard for Firefighter handheld radios.
The Safety Investigation Team identified three factors that contributed to the tragic outcome of this event. These factors include an excessive live fuel load which contributed to the growth of the fire, the layout of the building with the origin of the fire being in a room below grade and, extreme heat conditions accelerated by the failure of a window on the fire floor.
Chief Hayes-White indicated that this Safety Investigation was internal and initiated immediately following the rescue of the two Firefighters. Additionally, she stated that an independent Safety Investigation had also been conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH Report is pending.
“Twenty-five recommendations have been made as a result of information gathered from the Safety Investigation”, said Chief Hayes-White. “We take to heart all of the findings and recommendations in this report and will vow to do everything within our power to ensure a similar tragedy does not occur again in our Department.” The Department is in the process of implementing all recommendations and has initiated research and development where required.
President of San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798, Tom O’Connor said, “While there is nothing that we can do to change the outcome of that fateful day, we can learn lessons from this tragedy and make every effort to ensure that this does not happen again.”
“The two brave firefighters who died tragically in the line of duty in June last year – Lieutenant Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio are heroes,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “As a city, we will follow up on every recommendation and finding from the report issued today by the San Francisco Fire Department to ensure our first responders are as safe as possible as they serve the residents of San Francisco.”
The Fire Department has forwarded their report to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Cal-OSHA, the State Fire Marshal, and the CA Professional Firefighters Association for their review.
A must read from STATter911.com: Part 2 of The Loss of Captain Jeff Bowen. The inside story from Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department.18 comments
Captain Jeff Bowen, Asheville Fire Department.
For the second morning in a row we are turning STATter911.com over to Firefighter Jay Bettencourt of North Carolina's Asheville Fire Department. This is Part 2 of Jay's account of the fire on July 28, 2011 at a medical office building at 445 Biltmore Avenue that took the life of his friend, mentor and captain, Jeff Bowen. Jay was seriously injured in the fire.
As we told you yesterday, Jay Betterncourt's motive in sharing this story is two fold. He wants to help others learn from this tragic event. In addition, Jay is trying to bring attention to the website CaptainJeffBowen.com. On the website you can purchase a t-shirt and/or make a donation, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Captain Bowen's family. Please give your support.
Jay has reminded us that he is extremely grateful for the support he's received from the citizens of Asheville, his fellow firefighters and the leadership provided by Chief Scott Burnette.
I will remind you that the article below, The Loss of Captain Bowen, Part 2, consists of Jay's words. They are not the words of a professional writer. They come from a firefighter who watched his friend die. They come from a firefighter who came close to dying himself. There is language in the story that you normally don't see on STATter911.com. Some of you may even be offended by a few of the words. But these are the thoughts and emotions of a firefighter facing the biggest challenge of his life. I wouldn't think for a moment of censoring it. I urge you to read every word of it.
The Loss of Captain Bowen, Part 2
By Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department
As Jeff and I started moving, a mist of steam and hot water hit EJ on the side of his face. He turned to see where it was coming from; knowing it meant the nozzle company was operating in that direction. When EJ turned back to face Jeff & me, we were gone. He stood there for what must have seemed like an eternity looking for us. EJ was sure we would pop out of one of those doors of the alcove. He felt confident we were still there, he just couldn’t see us. He noticed his low air alarm had stopped going off, which meant he must be dangerously low on air, and he considered calling a Mayday. As he considered his situation in that smoky dark hell, he decided to walk ten steps in the direction the mist had come from. When he got there he saw Jake Long manning a nozzle and he knew where to go from there.
EJ hurdled Jake and made a beeline for the door running along the hose line. He followed the hose through a breached wall to a broken window and jumped out onto Ladder 1’s bucket. Just as EJ landed on the bucket he heard our Mayday go out. He wondered if we had called a Mayday for him, alerting command that we had lost a firefighter. So he told Captain Hendricks who was acting as division command, to call IC and tell them “I’m OK.” While this radio traffic is going on another Mayday comes in. And EJ realized that Jeff and I were in grave danger.
It is my great regret that I lost track of EJ during that scenario. I was overwhelmed and didn’t have the mental capacity to keep track of him. I am very grateful that he had the wherewithal to save his own life. It should be noted that after this incredible ordeal that he went through — on his second working bottle — EJ saw that there was still fire to fight and went back in for two more bottles.
Meanwhile, I had been buzzing for a considerable time and I knew I had little air for one, much less two. I yelled back to Jeff, “Call a Mayday!” and started pulling my buddy hose. My buddy hose was attached to my pack with a quarter turn latch and I had some trouble accessing it. I think at this point I took off my gloves for better dexterity. I dropped to my knees to pull Jeff’s hoses and within a few seconds I hooked up to him.
Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department.
And, oh how my heart broke when I heard his regulator vibrating and free flowing down by his waist. It only took a couple of seconds before I was sucking rubber and had to unclip. I had listened to Jeff call the Mayday as I was hooking up to him, but I wanted to call my own. Jeff dropped down to his knees and we started crawling out. He was standing up in the smoke when he unclipped from his regulator due to running out of air. I can’t help but wonder if this could have made the difference between living and dying.
We made it to the next doorway when I stopped Jeff and told him we needed to unclip our buddy hoses for ease of movement. That went fast, just a couple of seconds. Then we made our way out the door to the center of the floor where the elevators were. I called a Mayday, and then told Jeff I was going to find a way out. He was on his hands and knees over his radio. I could hear radio traffic and I assumed Jeff was calling in the cavalry. I later found out that Jeff was vomiting in his mask.
I crawled a short distance and ran into the elevator bank. The smoke was banked down below the buttons, and I was confused because I had not seen the elevators on my way in due to the heavy smoke. This made me feel even more disoriented. I considered hitting the buttons if I could find them, but I didn’t want to take the time to look for them, and then wait for the car, if it came at all. The idea of dying while waiting for an elevator was unappealing to me, so I moved on. I later found out that the elevator was blocked open at the bottom floor and would not have come up. I started sleeping easer when I found out the elevator would not have saved us.
I left the elevator and found a limp hose. I started to follow it just like we were all taught. It did not take long for me to remember the mile of limp hose all over the floor and realize this fucking hose could be a road to nowhere. When it’s all limp there is no way to tell what’s what.
At that moment I became a little angry. I thought of all those frantic people outside, no doubt scrambling to do something to help. But what could they do? Jeff and I were all alone up here. I remembered watching Cool Hand Luke with Jeff at the station. The line, “We in here diggin’ and dying and they out there livin’” came to me and really hit hard.
A moment before I left the hose line I had a vision of my family. Not a thought or a memory, but a clear vision. Just their faces right in front of me. And without words my dear, sweet son’s face said to me, “Daddy come home, are you going to come home?” I shrugged my reply and said “I don’t know, but I’m not going without Jeff.”
Then I had my turning moment. I saw Jeff in a vision just like my son lying there suffering and in pain, and I decided I would rather he live and I die. I wanted to take all of Jeff’s pain and give him all the loving kindness in the world.
I abandoned the hose line and called my next Mayday, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Come fucking get us!” As I was talking on the radio I looked up and saw a window on the west side of the building. I thought about Lowering Captain Bowen out the window then bailing out but I didn’t think I could throw him out the window and then catch him on my rope. I wondered if that tiny corner of sunlight shining through the vertical blinds of that window would be the last time I would see the sunshine. I had an overwhelming feeling that no one was coming so I ditched my mask, helmet, and radio. I did not want to take the time to put my radio back in my pocket. Every breath of that thick poison was one closer to death. Everything I did was a tradeoff for the breath it took to do it. Now that I was on my own I wanted to be light and fast. I felt sure that what ever happened to Jeff and me was up to me. I had to get us out. It was time to go.
Just by instinct I started down a hallway doing a left handed search in a rapid crawl. I kept my axe and ran into one locked door, then another locked door. Then I came to a dead end and yet another locked door. It had a sign on it saying something to the effect of employee’s only, no admittance. I shook my head and prepared myself for death.
I kept my left hand search going working my way back up the other side of the same hallway. I came to a corner and a door. I reached up and opened it and there before me was a clear lit stairwell. This stairway seemed like a stairway to heaven. I threw my axe in the threshold of the door and did a crawl back to Jeff. He had not moved and was making some groggy noises, kind of mumbling (Jay?) I grabbed him by the shoulder straps. I considered for a second doing a thigh conversion, but decided to just go. I would do it if I needed to, but lucky I didn’t. Jeff and I moved easily to the stairs and I started to drag him down. We got down to the fourth floor landing and I thought it best to call command and let them know where we were. I rolled Jeff over to get to his radio pocket, but when I got to it, his radio was gone. Now I regretted ditching mine. Ah fuck it, we both called 5th floor Maydays, those fuckers can come find us.
So I started pulling Jeff again and I was getting so tired my legs burned. I thought of doing the Filthy Fifty (a CrossFit work out) with Rick, the regular back man I work with on Rescue 3 and I was so glad I had done that. I was getting CO dumb, but I had to keep going one flight after the next. On the flight above the third floor a little bungee loop from Jeff’s gear caught on mine. It took me a moment to make sense of it. When I did, I went for the knife Clint gave me for Christmas, but could not find it. As I was jostling around looking for it, the loop fell off and I was free. I realized how bad off I was at that point. As I was pulling Jeff down the next flight of stairs, I saw his face for the first time since I had left my truck to go drive 10. I thought of how peaceful and exposed he was. Sliding my hand under his right cheek, I cradled his head as I dragged him down the stairs. He landed funny on the next landing and his legs flopped over and lodged him in place. One at a time I moved his legs out of the way, and just as I was doing this I heard a voice from above yelling down to us. I yelled back,” HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP! HELP!”
Finally they were here. The help has finally arrived. I did not mean to, but hearing that voice made me let my guard down, and for a moment I felt like I might pass out. Jeff was set to go, and even though the troops had arrived I still went for one more flight. I was too tired to drag him like before. So I put my feet up high near Jeff, grabbed him with both hands and fell back. I dropped my ass and pulled Jeff down on to me. (DO NOT BELIEVE THE VOICE!!) I have asked everyone in the building at that time and no one called to me. It was a hallucination that caused me to let my guard down and nearly lose my life.
The next thing I remember is Paul Monrow over me trying to put his mask in my face. My airway was too damaged from the smoke and soot. I had to push it away. I tried to say, “Give it to Jeff”, but I don’t know if it ever came out. Paul asked me if I could walk and I said, “No”. Somehow Jeff got in front of Paul and me with his rescuers. I tried to stand and fell down. Paul got me up again and we staggered toward the elevator on the second floor. Paul and I started going the wrong way and Kenny Radford called to us to follow him.
We made it to the elevator and I collapsed in the corner under the buttons. The car was packed. I felt like a little kid looking at everyone’s pants. The door opened just after it closed and I heard people groaning and saying something, but I could not tell what. I felt sure one must have had a boot in the threshold of the elevator and the doors came open when they hit. I later found out that we had gone to the first floor but needed to go to the ground floor, one level below us.
When the doors opened on the ground floor I rolled backwards out of the car. It was important to me to get out of the way, so Jeff could be brought out. I knew he was worse than me, but was not sure how bad. As I looked around in the hallway I saw firefighters and medics at the west entrance and an ambulance outside. I couldn’t hear anything at first. Crawling toward the door I found myself lifted by a thousand hands, and delivered to a waiting stretcher. These few seconds seemed to go in slow motion. I looked up and all these faces kept appearing in front of me. Clint pulled my turnout gear off and kept me steady on the stretcher.
I saw my friend Thomas. I said, “Thomas, give me some water.” So in his southern drawl, he said, “All right man.” He opened a bottle of water and totally missed, pouring it all down my shirt. Later Thomas told me when he did that I gave him a “real dirty look” and he then he knew I would be OK.
I was loaded into the ambulance, and I saw Foster, a medic I know from working at 3. He told me I needed to strip down, so as I was lying on the stretcher I took off my pants and shirt, and was embarrassed because I was wearing my one and only pair of pink underwear.
I asked Foster about Jeff and said he didn’t know. He told me that his main concern at that moment was me. It was a 30second drive to the hospital. Then Foster rolled me off the ambulance and into the ER. I was quickly assigned a room, and before I knew it I was surrounded two deep by frantic doctors and nurses.
I saw Kricken, a medic I know in a flight medic uniform. I asked him if he could give me a ride in his helicopter, he said no. But proved him wrong. My thoughts went back and forth from, “I should just get up and go,” because I was truly fine, to wondering when I would die.
I asked about Captain Bowen several times, but no one would give me an answer. Eventually I started screaming his name hoping he would yell back to me. “JEFF! JEFF!” I would scream. He never called back.
At one point a nurse started praying near my head, and I felt sure I was going to die. I asked one of the nurses if we could have some music, and wondered aloud if he had an iPod. When he laughed me off, and said “no”, I started rapping aloud. WU TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTHING TO FUCK WITH, WU TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTHING TO FUCK WITH, WE BRING THE RUCKUS, WE BRING THE MOTHER FUCKING RUCKUS.
I could hear them in the background, saying, “This guy is freaking out.” And I said, “No, this is what I’m like. This is me.” I looked over and saw a doctor greasing up an intubation tube, a 12 inch long rubber schlong. I looked up at her and said, “Doc. Please put me under before you shove that thing down my throat!”
The next thing I remember is waking up unable to open my eyes. I couldn’t move any part of my body. And felt sure I was under paralysis. I had an overwhelming urge to kick my feet and I felt like that was the key to my survival. I tried with everything I had, every ounce of strength, but my feet would not move. After this effort I passed out.
Later Kricken told me every 40 minutes or so they would see me stirring in the helicopter. They would have to be quick in getting more sedatives into me, because I would try to pull the intubation tube out of my mouth.
I came to again, and once again tried to kick my feet. This time I was successful, and was very pleased with myself. I vaguely remember feeling the sheet bounce off my legs, and losing consciousness. Sometime later, I opened my eyes and saw the outline of my wife’s face. I closed my eyes, and the outline moved to the other side of my head. Her face was directly above mine. I could only see her face. Everything else was darkness. I thought I might be dead.
The next time I woke up I could tell I was in a dark hospital room. It was quiet, and seemed like the middle of the night. I was all alone, and realized I was restrained to the bed with a giant rubber tube shoved down my throat. Throughout my time in the fire I thought I was in some sort of hell realm. I must get myself and Jeff out to escape this hell. Waking up in the hospital in that strange condition in incredible discomfort seemed like I was in a new form of hell.
A very helpful nurse came in who must have noticed that I was starting to regain consciousness. She put on a country music channel and put the remote control in my hand. Some country singer was whining at me about some loss she had had in her trailer park. My new mission in life was to make her shut up. Through some highly sedated ciphering I realized the remote control was in my hand. And though I was unable to read the words, I could make out the arrows. I started stabbing one of the arrows with my thumb as fast as I could to make this woman stop. But unfortunately it was the up volume arrow. Now Reba was whining in my ear at full pitch. “Yes, I am truly in country music hell,” I thought.
It took several hours to convince the hospital staff to remove the intubation tube. By using only my eyes and my restrained hands to communicate I let them know that I desperately wanted it removed. At first they told me, “later.” To a nurse in her comfortable uniform without a ball gag in her mouth, later means most of a graveyard shift. To me in my condition, later means five minutes. So I hit the nurse call button about every five minutes. Then they would say, “A doctor has to take it out.” To this I would indicate with my eyes only, that we are indeed in a hospital, and there should be a doctor almost everywhere. Once again, my eyes lost the debate.
I could see the clock across the room from my bed. Although in my drug delirium state I could not read it. I think it was about five hours until the doctor came and ordered the nurse, who told me she needed a doctor to take it out, to take out the intubation tube which I felt decidedly annoyed by.
I started asking about Captain Bowen immediately, and no one would give me an answer. I was told my wife was in the waiting room. So I grabbed my room phone and tried to call her. After two or three failed attempts. I called the nurse and told her my room phone was not working. She asked me if I was trying to call a local number, and I said “Yes, it is an Asheville number.” And using her best Georgia peach accent, she said to me, “Honey, you’re in Augusta, Georgia. They flew you here last night.”
I started justifying why no one would tell me about Jeff. He must be back at Mission Hospital. Maybe they flew him to Raleigh. Then the doctor, who had ordered my intubation tube removed, came in. I asked him if he knew about Captain Bowen. He looked at me as though he was about to lance a boil, and said, “Oh. He’s dead.” Just like that.
He told me that I dragged him out of the fire, and that I was a hero. I wanted to punch this doctor in the face. A moment later a wheelchair came for me, and took me to a hyperbaric chamber. There, I spent the next 90 minutes in Plexiglas tube hacking up half dollar sized chunks of black bloody yuck and contemplating the death of my friend and mentor.
When they brought me back to my room, my wife Lucy came to see me. After a few minutes with her, the firefighters that brought her down came in, along with my mom and stepfather. After a couple hours of tearful greetings, I was released to go home.
A four hour surreal drive delivered me to my house where Chief Burnett was waiting, along with other chiefs, city officials, and a barrage of firefighters. I went around and hugged each one of them individually. This trip was no small task, due to my condition. And then I told Chief I was going in. And there I was back on my sofa. Just over 24 hours after the original call to 445 Biltmore had gone out. I was at home in a daze. What just happened? Is it still happening? When will it stop happening?
I cannot express the gratitude for the firefighters who came in for Captain Bowen and me after working through the point of exhaustion on this shorthanded fire, and continued to work long after we were gone. There was still a fire to fight. Or for all the brothers that came in off duty when the news of our MAYDAY spread through the city. These people truly exemplify what it is to be a firefighter.
A must read from STATter911.com: The loss of Captain Jeff Bowen. The inside story from Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department.25 comments
Captain Jeff Bowen, Asheville Fire Department.
We are turning STATter911.com over this morning and tomorrow to Firefighter Jay Bettencourt of North Carolina's Asheville Fire Department. You may recognize Jay's name from our coverage of the fire on July 28, 2011 at a medical office building at 445 Biltmore Avenue that took the life of Jay's friend, mentor and captain, Jeff Bowen. Jay was seriously injured in the fire.
Late last year, Jay contacted me about telling his story. Until our conversation, I had heard a few "inside" details about Jay and Captain Bowen being trapped in the building, having run out of air from their SCBA. What I had heard, while quite dramatic in itself, did not compare with hearing it directly from the man who was beside Captain Bowen the whole time.
Jay's motive in sharing these details is two fold. He wants to help others learn from this tragic event. In addition, Jay is trying to bring attention to the website CaptainJeffBowen.com. On the website you can purchase a t-shirt and/or make a donation, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Captain Bowen's family. Please give your support.
Firefighter Jay Bettencourt joined the Asheville Fire Department two years prior to the fire at 445 Biltmore. He also spent two years with the Swannanoa Fire Department in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
Jay tells STATter911.com that he is extremely grateful for the support he's received from the citizens of Asheville, his fellow firefighters and the leadership provided by Chief Scott Burnette.
The article below, The Loss of Captain Bowen, Part 1, are Jay's words. They are not the words of a professional writer. They come from a firefighter who watched his friend die. They come from a firefighter who came close to dying himself. There is language in the story that you normally don't see on STATter911.com. Some of you may even be offended by a few of the words. But these are the thoughts and emotions of a firefighter facing the biggest challenge of his life. I wouldn't think for a moment of censoring it. I urge you to read every word of it.
The Loss of Captain Bowen, Part 1
By Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department
The morning of July 28 started like most shifts. We checked in with the crew working off, went over the truck and started cleaning. Before breakfast Rescue 3 responded to a HAZMAT call where we served as the RIT for Engine 11 (one of Asheville’s HAZMAT Company’s). We chuckled and joked through the call unaware of the tragedy that would soon unfold.
Upon returning to Station 3, I went to Ladder 10 for driver training. After driving Ladder 10 for the morning, Larry Morrow told me my truck had been dispatched to a structure fire at 445 Biltmore Ave.
I loaded my gear into my truck and started driving to the fire. I called Jeff, Clint and Brad on the way to get a size-up or real time report about our truck assignment. I got no answer from anyone. I later found out that they were interior on their first bottle. I considered running hot, but thought it better to go routine. I drove past 3 and briefly considered going there; I dismissed this thought and went on to the fire.
Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, Asheville Fire Department.
It was a hot, clear day as I made my way through the city on to Charlotte St. and then Biltmore Ave. At one point I wanted to speed up, but got a feeling that I was “right on time.” As I approached 445 traffic was stopped on Biltmore, and I could see some cars turning around and coming back down the hill. I pulled out of the traffic line into the oncoming lane. I went through the line of cones blocking the road and parked in a parking lot on the corner of Biltmore Ave and Brooklet. When I pulled up, I saw 3 at the NE corner, and smoke and fire on the NW side of the top floor.
A cop was walking toward me, but stopped when he saw me getting into my turnout gear. Just as I finished dressing, Josh Walton backed down Biltmore to the hydrant on the corner where I was parked. He pulled his LDH. I walked up and told him I would catch the hydrant. Josh grabbed the Hydro assist and hydrant bag for me then drove off. He turned in on the north side of the building where Ladder 1 was operating.
I was without a radio so I stood in the street waiting for a signal of some kind. I saw a guy in an RTS (a local convalescent ambulance service) uniform standing between me and Josh who seemed to know what was happening. I nodded my head to indicate we were working together and a moment later he swung his hand around in the air in a circular motion which meant Josh was ready for whatever. I charged the line.
Rescue 3 was parked on the NE corner of 445 Biltmore Ave. I jogged up the hill about a block to my truck and noticed L1 booming up as I passed the north parking lot access road. I got to 3 and pulled a radio, air pack and axe. I turned on my radio but did not select a fire channel.
I walked in front of the north side of the building and saw smoke and fire coming out of a vented window. Weezy and Josh were doing engineer stuff and Mike Russell was on the first floor of the parking deck functioning as safety. I heard him yelling to the drivers to put their helmets on. The ladder was on ground floor 1 – below the first. I went up to Russell thinking he was at staging command and asked him what I should do. He told me Rescue was inside and that I should wait for my crew to come out and join them. As he said that, Chief Burnett walked up in full turnout gear and helmet! I knew this was big at that point. Just then I saw Caption Bowen walk out of the building. I was struck to see him alone, but ran over to join him.
I yelled, “Captain, are you tryin’ to burn something without me?”
Then he replied, “Well you’re the one that wanted to drive.”
“That will never happen again.”
I followed him over to staging just on the south side of the west ground floor entrance. I saw Clint and Brad there getting hot swaps and went to help. Paul Walker and I put a new bottle on Brad. I looked up from that to see EJ and Larry and CO standing behind E2. Chief Marzzella assigned Larry RIT and EJ said his crew was in rehab and wanted to join rescue. EJ was told to report this to command, which he did, then grabbed an axe off of E2.
Now we were going in. We walked quickly down the hall to the stairwell and headed up. The stairs were very smoky and I clipped in my regulator immediately. I was surprised at how thick the smoke was so far down the line. When I hooked up I looked up and down the line to see everyone else on air as well. We moved up the stairs and I thought about the elevators, and remembered the SOG I had recently read which stated high rise fires that were on the 5th floor or below would be fought from the stairs, not elevators. At that point I put the elevator out of my mind.
We took a long time going up the stairs not wanting to breath hard and waste our precious air. I realized, as I am sure everyone else did, that we were going to have limited time to operate on the fire floor due to our dwindling air supply.
At no point had I received a situation report about the fire or conditions or our assignment or even a radio channel, which would bite me later.
We moved up the stairs in a line. Jeff in the lead followed by Clint, myself, Brad and then EJ. On the fourth floor landing we started to encounter dry hose, which I assumed was a high-rise pack. It was attached to the stand pipe and sort-of stretched. Jeff tripped (on the hose I assumed) and Clint stopped to ask if he was okay. Jeff said he was fine and kept moving. We encountered more spaghetti hoses on the 5th floor landing and I noticed there were a lot of hoses around, but NO WATER!
We entered the 5th floor into very smoky conditions, but not much heat. This has been a point of contention with other companies and firefighters. Some firefighters came out reporting extremely high heat; however, due to the leap frogging of crews on this fire every company saw this fire in a different state. The smoke was grayish and diffused my light. There was about 2-3 feet of visibility. Our team moved through the thick haze fast, following a hose line and darting around corners. As we circled our way around the building I knew I was becoming disoriented, but felt it was important to keep up with the man in front of me. I assumed he had a good idea of where we were going.
The smoke seemed to be lighter as we traveled along the line. I saw a clamp that belonged to Brad holding a door open. I was glad to see he had used one of his new clamps, and that it seemed to be working well. We went through the chocked doorway into a room where the hose ended. Our company formed a circle around the nozzle and squatted down. We stayed there for quite some time in a circle.
We waited there for a couple of minutes while Jeff called for water and we all burned our air supply. I noticed everyone checking their air, and I thought we would be ineffective due to our low air and lack of water. I thought we should be searching for victims or fire extension, but there we sat waiting for water. Jeff called for water. Then Chief Denning told us to come out if we had no task. Jeff said we would stay and wait for water or stand by in case another crew needed us. Captain Eddie Wyatt called on the radio and said we needed to open the stand pipe valve. The valve was open. Later Russell called to E6 and told them the ladder was their method of egress. I had no idea where that would be or where the fire was, or how to get back to the stairs other than following the hose.
Around this time 6 gets water and calls it into command. Jeff gets on the radio and asks 6 if they could use our help. They said yes and we were off swerving through the dark and smoky abyss. We made our way into a hallway that had an alcove off of it containing six (?) small rooms. We stopped there while Jeff did god knows what. It was very hard for the 5 of us to communicate well since our crew was too large for everyone to take part in interactions. I trust my company and my officer. I knew Captain Bowen would lead us in the right direction. I told Brad I was going to search the small rooms even though I thought they had already been searched. We didn’t have anything else to do at the time. Due to our lack of water I felt ineffectual throughout the operation.
After that I poked my head into a room across the hall from the alcove. This room was full of files that were burning in the decay stage. There were little camp fires on top of every box. It was a room with an exterior wall lined with windows. Talk began about breaking the windows. Someone checked in with Jeff and he gave the all clear. EJ radioed down to command to have the ladder operator stand clear while we took the windows. After we took them I looked out and the ladder was nowhere to be seen. We were on the west side of the building and had mistakenly thought we were on the north side, where the ladder was. I saw how truly lost I was. At about this time Brad’s low air alarms started going off. He told Jeff and, after some, delay we started making our way out.
I thought that this was collectively the best decision we had made. As we worked our way out along the hose line, I saw a helmet and a light pop out from around a corner. I asked who it was and if they were okay. They said they were good and we moved on. There was a lot of starting and stopping as we made our way out. I was too far back in the line and it was too dark for me to be clued in.
The order heading out was Jeff, Clint, Brad, me and EJ. We rounded a couple of corners and ran across Mike Branon flaking out a high rise pack. I asked who it was and by his cursing I could tell it was Mike!
“Oh fuck this fuckin’ hose. Fuck Man. God Damn it.”
Our overabundance of limp useless hose was very clear to me. Again we stood around for a while then started moving out. At some point the order of our line changed. As we got to the stairs I saw Clint go down followed by Brad, then Jeff blew by the stairs and started heading down an unfamiliar hallway.
In hind sight it was clear where we were, but at the time I was very confused. I looked back at EJ in shock and said, “We gotta get him.” So off we went chasing after Jeff. I was yelling, “Jeff, Jeff, we have to go down, there is no one here. We have to go down. Let’s go.” But every time I got close to him he would dart off and go deeper into the fire area. I could not imagine why Jeff was doing this; his low air alarm had started soon after Brad’s. Mine started just as Jeff darted away, and I knew we were in a bad way. Around this point I thought to myself, “I bet they will give us the rest of the shift off for this bullshit.”
Jeff made his way back into the alcove where we finally caught him. He looked surprised as if he was expecting something to be there that was not, maybe a downed firefighter, maybe a charged hose line. At this point I grabbed Jeff by the pack straps and yelled, “We are leaving!”
I was taking control. EJ was behind pushing Jeff on. We made it a few steps and I realized I had no idea where to go. I yelled to EJ, “You keep pushing him. I am going ahead to find our way.” I turned and took maybe 3 steps around a corner and realized what a bad plan that was. The smoke had intensified and was getting darker. I turned to go back and Jeff was right there as I turned around. He said, “I am out of air. I need to buddy breathe” in a frantic voice. My heart fell to my boot. Though I was scared, Captain Bowen seemed to be back in the game and that gave me some comfort.
The Loss of Captain Bowen, Part 2 will run tomorrow on STATter911.com
Twenty years ago: Kenny Hedrick, Morningside VFD, Prince George’s County, MD killed in a house fire.7 comments
This day, twenty-years-ago, was among the toughest I had spent in the news business. Awakened at home, I was told by the assignment desk at Channel 9 in Washington to go to 3807 Walls Lane in Suitland, Maryland for a house fire where it appeared a firefighter had died. By the time I drove from Rosslyn, Virginia to Suitland, I became aware that the firefighter was 18-year-old Kenny Hedrick of Company 27, Morningside.
I didn't know Kenny well, but I knew his family. His father Les was the chief of Morningside and I had known Les and his wife Cathy for more than 15 years, going back to when I was a volunteer in Prince George's County. Even though my reporting on PGFD issues had ruffled some feathers among the volunteer leadership in the county, Les always supported me. I also had worked briefly with Kenny's uncle, Ford Gallagher, when I was a dispatcher for PGFD. As you can imagine, this was a difficult story to cover.
When word came a few days later that Les and Cathy wanted me to interview Ford before the funeral about his nephew, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant. Hearing the stories of this young man whose goal was to follow in his uncle's footsteps and become a career firefighter in Prince George's County, and looking at the pictures of Kenny as a little boy sitting on a Morningside fire engine with Les, were quite emotional. At the church, it was hard to watch these wonderful people I knew dealing with the loss of their child.
Of course, at the time, I had no way of knowing that twenty years later I would be working alongside Cathy Hedrick at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Cathy transferred her love and her loss into something rather amazing. Firefighters across the country have heard Cathy tell the story of Kenny. Cathy works tirelessly on behalf of the Foundation and on behalf of firefighters. Cathy's efforts, with support from Les, to help make sure that fewer families of firefighters have to experience the pain her family has felt, knows no bounds.
Below is a tour of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial that includes an interview I did with Cathy (for a more detailed and recent story check out this one from WBFF-TV recorded in October, 2011).
One of the lessons from the fire on Walls Lane was fireground accountability. It was believed that Kenny had left the fireground after pulling a seven-year-old boy from the home. But instead, Kenny was trapped in the basement after going back in to search for more victims. Last year on the anniversary of Kenny's death, Mike Ward at Firegeezer.com looked at how this incident pushed fire departments in the region to conduct regular accountability checks. Click here for that story.
In The Secret List today, Billy Goldfeder, a member of the NFFF board of directors, writes about Kenny, Cathy and Les. Click here.
Below is an account of Kenny's death from the website of the Morningside VFD. Tonight at 7:00 PM, there will be a memorial ceremony at the firehouse.
Kenneth Michael Hedrick
On January 12th 1992, Engine Company 27 was dispatched for a first due house fire at 3807 Walls Lane in Suitland. Kenny had been in the structure and made a rescue of the family's seven year old son. Kenny reentered the house to search for additional victims. While searching the basement, he became trapped under debris and perished. Kenny had been a member of the department for about two years. Les Hedrick, his father, was Fire Chief at the time but was not on the call. Kenny attended LaPlata High School and had his sights set on becoming a career firefighter in the Washington DC area. Kenny's uncle, Ford Gallagher, at the time was a 12 year veteran of the Prince George's County Fire Department (PGFD). At Kenny's funeral, PGFD Fire Chief Steve Edwards made Kenny a honorary career firefighter in the PGFD. The new Rescue Squad 27 is dedicated to Kenny. Kenny's parents are still active in the department today; Les serves on the Board of Directors as well as being Vice President and his mother Cathy is still active in the Ladies Auxiliary. Both Les and Cathy are active members in the Fallen Firefighters Foundation and are counselors for families of other fallen firefighters across the Nation. Kenny will be missed by his family both in and out of the fire station. His love and devotion to the fire service will live on as an inspiration to all.
We love you, Kenny.
Pompano Beach Firefighter William Elliott dies in fall from aerial ladder. Occurred during drill at Station 61.15 comments
According to Pompano Beach Fire Rescue, the 50-year-old Pompano Beach firefighter was on top of a 90-foot-high ladder when he fell to the ground below at Fire Station 61, located at 2121 NW 3 Ave, at around 4 p.m. Friday.
Authorities are not sure what caused the firefighter to fall.
He was taken to North Broward Medical Center, but he did not survive the fall.
Pompano Beach fire officials said the firefighter, identified as 50-year-old William Elliott, was rushed to North Broward Medical Center after the fall and was pronounced dead.
Sandra King, of Pompano Beach Fire Rescue, said Elliott was at the top of the ladder, and another firefighter was also on the ladder below him. The other firefighter said he just saw Elliott fall to the ground.
King said it is unclear whether Elliott was wearing a harness.
Make sure you take some time to sit down and watch this video from the Chicago Fire Department and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It is a good way to start the new year.
It was produced and directed by the extremely talented Rob Maloney and managed for NFFF by JoEllen Kelly (I would call her the executive producer).
A special, special thank you from Rob, JoEllen, the leadership at NFFF and me to our regular STATter911.com contributor Steve Redick. Steve, graciously opened up his video library to Rob and NFFF for this project.
Of course, these stories could not be told without the cooperation and compassion of Commissioner Robert Hoff, IAFF Local 2, the men and women of the department and the survivors of fallen firefighters from CFD.
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Cal OSHA fines San Francisco FD for two in, two out & more in fire that killed two firefighters. Chief disputes findings.12 comments
California's Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued fines in connection with the fire that killed Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, and firefighter-paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53 on June 2. Both the agency and Chief Joanne Hayes-White say that the violations were not a direct cause of the firefighters' deaths. Fire officials go further and are disputing some of Cal OSHA's findings.
Cal OSHA issued four citations — three of them categorized as serious — and said personnel located outside the house did not maintain communications with the two crewmembers of Engine 26.
The fire department says it will appeal all the citations.
"We have documentation to prove that these citations are not based on what we think happened up there," said Asst. Dept. Chief Jose Velo.
In recommending that the Fire Department be fined $21,000, the state investigators also said the department had violated state rules requiring that two firefighters be designated outside to assist any two firefighters who venture into a life-threatening environment.
The state also cited the Fire Department for an incident – evidently before the fatal flareup – in which an unidentified battalion chief ventured into the burning building alone, without keeping in contact with Perez and Valerio. That was also deemed a serious violation of safety rules.
"These are serious in that they had protocols in place, but they weren't following them," said Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the worker safety agency. "There's no question that a lack of communications was a big issue here. The investigator found there was a breakdown there.
Asheville Fire Department chief says it took ‘extended’ amount of time for an effective attack on fire that killed Capt. Jeff Bowen. Also, video of weekend fundraiser for Bowen family.7 comments
I am on a road trip with the family heading to FRI in Atlanta. Our travels brought us to Asheville, North Carolina where we quickly learned of many ongoing fundraisers by the community to benefit the family of Asheville Fire Department Capt. Jeff Bowen. Capt. Bowen was killed on July 28 in what has been identified as an intentionally set fire at 445 Biltmore Avenue.
Yesterday, before we had a chance to check out the motorcycle ride and weekend Memorial Band Jam at Mack Kell's Pub & Grill up the street from our hotel, it came to us. The many bikers, with a police and fire escort, traveled Tunnel Road as we were at a traffic light. It took almost 15 minutes before it passed our location and quite a few citizens paused to greet them. The video is above.
The list of fundraisers that have occurred and will occur is quite impressive. Check it out here on the website of IAFF Local 865. And here is a link to make donations to a fund set up to assist in the education of Jeff Bowen's children and for other fallen firefighters.
Also, yesterday the Asheville Citizen-Times published a very detailed article by Jeffrey Ostendorff that looks at what is known, so far, about the fire department operation at the July 28 fire. Ostendorff uses public records (including the fire incident report), fireground audio recordings released by the city under an open records request and an interview with Chief Scott Burnette.
The article provides some insight into the actions of Chief Bowen's crew and also focuses on difficulty in getting water to the fire.
Here's an excerpt:
Crews from Engine 2 went to the fourth floor to hook up to the standpipe station while Engine 1 hooked to the standpipe connection on the Biltmore Avenue side of the building.
But the water never came.
It was nearly 38 minutes before firefighters, using a hose brought in through a window from a ladder truck, got water on the fire, according to the radio recordings.
Burnette in his interview Thursday did not dispute the time frame, though he said it was still being investigated. He said it took an “extended” amount of time before firefighters were able to mount an effective interior attack.
Funeral arrangements for Captain Jeff Bowen, Asheville Fire Department. Firefighter Jay Bettencourt getting out of hospital.3 comments
Arrangements via FireNews.net:
Visitation: Monday, August 01, from 18:00 – 21:00 hours. Biltmore Baptist Church, 35 Clayton Road, Arden, NC. (Arden is approximately six miles south of Asheville, just off of Interstate 26 at Exit 37).
Memorial Service: Tuesday, August 02, 11:00 hours. Same location as Visitation.
Asheville Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, injured yesterday in the line of duty and transported to the Augusta, Georgia Medical Center for treatment, is in the process of being discharged and returning to Asheville. He is reportedly feeling well.
Firefighters brought their fire trucks to overpasses from Winston-Salem to Asheville this afternoon to honor an Asheville firefighter who died fighting a blaze this week.
The firefighter, Capt. Jeffrey Bowen, went into cardiac arrest while fighting a fire at an Asheville medical center on Thursday. His body was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Health for an autopsy.
Winston-Salem Assistant Fire Chief Terry Carter said Bowen's body was taken back to Asheville this afternoon.
UPDATE Asheville, North Carolina Fire Captain Jeffrey Bowen dead. Seven other firefighters injured at medical office building near Mission Hospital. Watch afternoon press conference.24 comments
Asheville Fire Department Captain Jeffrey Bowen died this afternoon at a four-alarm fire at a medical office building. Details of the 1:00 PM fire were released at a press conference shortly after 5:00 PM.
Officials report that Captain Bowen was able to voice a mayday before he was found. Bowen, 37, was the father of three children.
Firefighter Jay Bettencourt, who was working with Bowen, has been taken to a burn center in Augusta, Georgia. Six other firefighters were treated for heat related issues at nearby Mission Hill Hospital.
The last time an Asheville firefighter died due to a fire was in 1982.
Below is the raw video from the press conference by Chief Scott Burnette:
"This is a terrible tragedy for out city, for all of us in the Asheville Fire Department and most importantly his wife Stacey. We pray for her," Chief Scott Burnette said.
Bowen was a 13-year veteran of the department and assigned to Rescue Company 3.
"We will be doing a full analysis to find out what occured in this situation," Burnette said.
One Asheville firefighter has died after a fire in a medical building near Mission Hospital. Eight other firefighters were taken to the hospital, many suffering from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
Fire crews were called to the building at 445 Biltmore Avenue just after noon, Thursday. Flames could be seen shooting from windows on the fifth floor of the building, which houses private medical practices and clinics. Dozens of employees, patients, and visitors were evacuated.
From the AP:
Officials 3say several firefighters have been treated at Asheville's Mission Hospital emergency room following a fire at a nearby office building.
One firefighter died in the fire and eight others have been hurt, according WGHP-TV in Greensboro.
Mission Hospital spokeswoman Merrell Gregory says nine people were seen Thursday afternoon in connection with the blaze.
Gregory says she can't say whether the nine were still being treated, the extent of their injuries or what caused them. Calls placed to the Ashville Fire Department and city officials were not immediately returned.
Gregory says the fire occurred in a building called 445 Biltmore. The hospital has activated a command center and a triage unit to deal with the incident.
Image from WLOS-TV.