Vacant row comes down after someone dies.
Using the latest popular Camden fire (aren't they all?) we present a look at the latest in "Why We Search." On Saturday fire broke out on the end unit of 622 Point Street. Reportedly vacant for many years, neighbors and other residents had complained to the city asking for it to be torn down.
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Known for having vagrants and others use the end unit in the past, the alarm for Saturday's fire was followed up with additional information from police of possible people trapped inside. A later report was given of all occupants out and one burn victim inside. This was followed up by another report from the police of a person still inside.
"Heavy fire, multiple lines operating, fire is still doubtful."
It's disheartening that the beleaguered Camden firefighters are dealing with the city's financial problems. Imagine how the constant heaviness is comppunded when the reported vacant house fire you are responding to is updated with reports of people trapped. Even if it wasn't a vacant, consider their first alarm assignment; two engine companies, two ladder companies, a rescue company and a battalion chief. Ladder 1, the first due truck to Point Street has since been placed out of service due to city budget woes. Risk and sizeup do not lose their value when the administrators trim the repsonse, but they do get greater top billing when we learn people are possibly trapped inside.
"Primary search is unable to be completed due to heavy fire."
The mantra, if you will, that we use in "Why We Search" is that each sizeup is different, every situation is a situation, and until conditions and resources allow it, you cannot determine if no one is inside until you go in. We have never been advocates of the "must always search" belief. It goes against everything we write and talk about regarding smart firefighting. We do challenge those reckless folks in running gear as well as those who say vacants should never be searched. Each has an extreme view that is illogically based on identity and fear that doesn't do well to solve any associated problems. (Well, okay, if you never go in at least you'll be safe, but what about the person inside? Oh, and make sure someone is riding in the Lawyer spot too.)
"This is actually the third time this building has been on fire."
In our "Why We Search" page, you'll notice that not every link is about a rescue or fatal fire. For your benefit we have also included information where municipalities, departments and citizens are trying to find a solution to the dangers and effects of vacant, abandoned structures. The residents on Point Street, much like others we link to, had tried to get rid of the vacant end unit. Much of the problem in these examples lies in who has possession of the property and the cost of demolition. We've seen a wide range of owners holding on to a shell of a building, and money seems to be the log jam. Unfortunately we've also seen where the lack of money and the mud of codes, permits, and politics disappear and a vacant building is torn down the day after a fatal fire. That question, 'Where was the money before?' and why did this pot of gold suddenly show up among the embers and smoldering roof trusses – needs to be asked and not just by the citizens on the block. It behooves your department, if possible, to spend as much time trying to have them torn down as it does trying to operate safely when they burn.
After all, isn't the danger for all of us gone when the building is gone?
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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