At 2325 hours on Thursday night, Engine 511, Ambulance 511, and Medic 511 were dispatched to a reported structure fire at Raven’s Crest Apartments. The engine arrived on scene and found an exterior stairwell fully involved. They deployed the 300 foot “apartment” line and initiated fire attack while Engine 501 and Engine 525 arrived on scene and extended additional lines. The engine crews quickly attacked the fire and kept it from spreading into the apartments while Tower 501 ensured that all occupants were safe and pulled siding for thorough fire extinguishment.
After the fire was extinguished, the crews checked void spaces for residual heat and the utility arrived to turn off the power and secure the scene. The cold temperatures complicated overhaul operations, and crews had to adapt to changing conditions. The run-off water from the initial fire suppression created sheets of ice on scene. When a small area reignited, crews realized that the back-up hose line could not be used because the nozzle and first few feet of line had frozen solid. Engine 511 put out the small flame with a water can, which also subsequently froze.
All the crews from Stonewall, Manassas City, Bristow, and Lake Jackson overcame the cold to protect property and lives. Because the fire started in the stairwell, egress for occupants would have been very difficult had the fire not been quickly extinguished. Then, icing on gear, equipment, and even personnel created ongoing complications. No call is the same as the one before. The challenges of situations like this help emergency personnel learn on the job and make the fire service the exciting and fulfilling experience that it is.