Lessons Learned: Fatal, Illegal Renovation in the Bronx, August 2006

A repost in memory of Probationary Firefighter Mike Reilly and Lieutenant Howie Carpluk.


On 24 August 2006 a FDNY lieutenant and probationary firefighter were trapped in the floor collapse of a burning dollar store in the Bronx. Immediately after, Engine 75 lieutenant Howie Carpluk transmitted a mayday message and began trying to help the FAST truck and others locate him and probationary firefighter Mike Reilly.

“”You see where the line went in? There’s a hole for me to get air – we need a mask toward the back,”

“Mask. Get it back here. I’m out of air . . Keep coming straight back here, we only need a mask. There’s a void for me, come here, you’ll see it. All I need is air, bro.”

Pinned by a rooftop air conditioning unit and other structural debris, Reilly lay underneath his officer, suffering chest-crushing injuries. Subsequent investigations would later reveal that engineers had illegally removed supports from the basement, while repairing damage from a 2000 fire.

Originally assigned to Engine Company 42, Carpluk was working overtime that day in Engine Company 75. Ironically, Engine Company 42 was the first due engine at the box. During the collapse and rescue some of Carpluk’s transmission were missed but he continued to calmly guide his rescuers. Eight other members were missing as well.

“Come on, see the guy with the line. Forget the water, give me the mask first and turn around and hit it. You go down the left side, 75 mayday, go down the left side. You’ll see me sticking out my hand.”

Finally, by grabbing the leg of a passing firefighter Carpluk spoke his last,

“Save my probie,” he urged. “He’s underneath me.”

Dollar and 99-cent stores, even without illegal renovations, possess a huge fire load and difficulty traversing the store due to contents. Take the time to remember Lieutenant Carpluk and Firefighter Reilly by reviewing the NIOSH report and preplanning those occupancies in your first due area. If you need Photos and videos of current dollar store fires for an off-the cuff drill, you can find them online at Firegeezer: Dollar Stores.

References
“Floor Collapse at Commercial Structure Fire Claims the Lives of One Career Lieutenant and One Career Fire Fighter – New York”, NIOSH, November 2007
“Mayday! Mayday! Running Out Of Air”, New York Post, August 2006
“A Father of Two and a Mentor in the Neighborhood” New York Times, August 2006
“PROBIE DIES IN BRONX BLAZE. Vet lieutenant clinging to life after fiery plunge in 99-cent store”, Daily News, August 2006
“FAREWELL TO THE BRAVEST ROOKIE. Thousands turn out to honor firefighter killed in Bronx blaze”, Daily News, August 2006
“Heroes Remembered”, FDNY
“Before Firefighters, Engineer Pleads Not Guilty to Perjury”, New York Times, March 2008
“Engineer Faces Perjury Charge After Fatal Bronx Fire in í06″, New Times, March 2008
The Michael C. Reilly Scholarship
Howie Carpluk,
2007 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award
, Fire Engineering, 2007

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Backstep Firefighter

‚ÄúTo provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.‚ÄĚ
Comments
Burton Clark
Rhetorical Lesson No.12: Would Fewer Basics Work in Reducing Our LODDs?
All we need is one lesson with two parts. Follow all the S.O.Ps 100% correct, 100% of the time. Reason, anything less can get you and others killed. It also makes you a professional and defines a good firefighter.
2014-08-29 13:43:35
John Pignataro
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Bravo sir ...This battle began in the early 1990's having been a career DC Fireman for 30 yrs and a still active volunteer fireman for 37 the mentality has changed since 1977. Your article is clear and to the point but I am afraid the fire service maybe lost to the folks who preach the…
2014-08-23 01:12:28
Ben Waller
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Actually, the "Women and children first" idea cane from the sinking if the HMS Birkenhead. Now known as "The Birkenhead Drill", this stemmed from the ship beginning to sink, an inadequate number of lifeboats, and the Royal Marines and soldiers on board being called to formation and standing in ranks while the ships crew put…
2014-08-21 11:25:14
Ron Ayotte
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Bing-freaking-o!
2014-08-21 02:49:30
Brian Gary
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Very well written. I couldn't agree more with your statements. The problems are many, but they perpetuate and increase with every new class of recruits that are poisoned with the idea that anyone who feels unsafe has a responsibility to act and stop whatever is going on. When I came on, my instructors told me…
2014-08-21 02:04:23
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