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So Much for That “It’s Not Vacant Until We Search” Ideology

Aggressive and Safety each took a hit in Toledo.

On STATter911 is the story of a fire in Toledo where the body of a victim was found after demolition of the fire building. What makes it sad is the details of where the body was located and how it was missed. You can go to the page where Dave has linked to the local news stories and debate all the should have, could have and would haves you may have with other anonymous folk. In this post, I'll point out specifics from the news reports and the department's report.

Fire victim’s unit went unsearched before building was razed

Taylor Dungjen, Toledo Blade

"- at the onset of the Jan. 13 fire told authorities that everyone was out of the three-story building. “We rely on primarily the folks that live in that structure or neighbors nearby,” said Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld. “That’s our best resource to gather that information.”"

"The fire started on the second floor of the building – "

"The third and second floors were searched, as was part of the first, but at 4:07 a.m., one minute after a crew was sent to search the first floor, the evacuation order was given, leaving apartments 37 and 38 unsearched, according to the report."

"While the building was still burning, crews were told that “someone may be in the apartment on the left,” which was apartment 37. Two firefighters and the on-scene commander went into the building to search 37. One firefighter went into 38 — which had an open door, the report states."

"The fire department’s report found that “crews performed well considering the many functions that had to be considered” and the search of the building was “textbook.” There were communication issues, the report found, because of face-to-face conversations opposed to instructions broadcast over the radio. “Therefore, the other crews on the scene were unaware of their locations and duties,” the report states. “It’s difficult to say [if things could have been done differently],” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said. “To say if something was done wrong, it’s not a matter of right or wrong, it’s is there a faster or smoother way to do it.”"

Review of 3125 Meadowbrook Ct.

Three-story apartment, four units per floor; 12 units total.

Fire on second floor on arrival; third floor and attic after it is reported water is on the fire. Truck company was performing verticle ventilation. One company performing search on third floor. Second truck company arrives and is directed to "cross connect handlines in order to reach division three." RIT sees children in second floor windows while performing 360-degree sizeup; deployed, RIT locates and removes four children. Fifth occupant removed from third floor. Third floor declared "all clear".

An engine company is assigned to search second floor. Another engine company assigned to search first floor.

One minute after engine company enters to search first floor, evacuation order is given. Search is abandoned.

Order to evacuate is reportedly given again, although report states order is given at the same time as the first.

Water "issue" (dead end main) and fire spread are noted and safety of firefighters in reportedly a major concern to the incident commander.

Information gathered earlier from civilians reported all occupants out. The incident commander learned later that someone may be in Apartment 37 (first floor) "where the initial call originated." and Apartment 38.

Incident commander and two firefighters enter fire building to search apartments 37 and 38. Firefighter reportedly enters 38 (where victim was found later), enters hallway and then abandons search beacuse of "belief everyone was accounted for" and "were inside to check Apartment 37."

Secondary search was performed rapidly because of "structural instability", "fire conditions" and "belief that all occupants were out."

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In reading through the whole report, the findings indicate that stressors present as well as communication issues were the most likely causes or reasons for missing the victim.

- – -

In the context of the news report and department report, as well as safety and aggressiveness (both in their usual bad image), there are many questions each side should look at and feel ashamed about.

Body found in rubble after Friday apartment fire: foxtoledo.com

Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

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