Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ladder 49

Today has been a very long day. A very long, non-productive, depressing day. I began the day by going to a funeral for a woman I'd grown up with who died suddenly Saturday of a heart attack. At 41. The bright spot in the day was going to an early supper with my mom at the pub afterwards, where we played along while watching "Jeopardy" and talked politics with Katherine and Shirley, the owners. (We also ate watermelon cheesecake, but the jury's still out on that flavor experience.)

When I got home, I dragged myself outside to clean up the yard and pull shingles. I smelled smoke. When I walked out into the front yard I saw smoke all over the neighborhood. Then I heard sirens. I grabbed my camera and jogged in the direction of the heaviest smoke. A residential structure fire three blocks from my house. Fire companies from three towns on scene--Lexington (my hometown), Wellington-Napoleon, and Richmond. (Technically, that's four towns, but Wellington and Napoleon are so small they've combined their fire departments.)

Doesn't look so bad from the front, but look what's going on at the side of the house and in the back yard.

Sometimes people will call 911 again after they've reported a structure fire to tell us, panicked, that the fire trucks have driven past the house. We explain that they do that on purpose, to park near the closest hydrant and to get a three-sided view of the house so they can plan how to attack the fire.

Every fire department's mission is to protect and save property and lives. The resident of the house, an elderly woman, was taken to the hospital with burns on her feet, and a Lexington firefighter was also transported for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. They're both expected to be okay. Sometimes the lives the fire department tries to save aren't human lives. Here they're trying to revive the resident's little dog after it was overcome by smoke.

Lt. Harrison (the guy kneeling in bunker gear) came out of the house, dog in his arms, pumping its little chest and calling for oxygen. Despite their best efforts, the dog didn't make it. (I told you it was a depressing day.)

Here they've cut a hole in the wall so they can better access that fire coming out of the roof. The house is an older home, frame construction with vinyl siding. (At the left of the photos you can see where the siding's melting off the house.) This house has a double roof--a new roof, plywood sheathing and all, built over the top of the existing roof--which creates a gap, sometimes sizeable, between the two roofs. A double roof makes fighting fire that much harder, and for some reason double roofs are common around here. You might've heard, in movies, firefighters talk about fire as if it's an animal. That's not just movie talk; they really say those things. A Wellington firefighter on scene today said, "The fire crawled along the ceiling looking for a place to go, and then it got up in that double roof and ran."

A couple of hours later Command finally called fire out, and the guys backed out of the house to take a breather and drink some water. Firefighting is hot, dirty, exhausting work. Just take a look at those faces.

(Mandy and the girl I don't know from another department, if you're reading this, YOU ROCK! But I can't see you ladies in this pic, so I'm calling 'em "the guys".)

Quoting another woman who rocks, this time Scarlett O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day." Hope it's better than this one.


  1. Jeez, Jayne. What a lousy day (but thanks for making my night not seem so bad.) Sorry about your friend.

    Those are awesome shots! And that's good info you shared. Very touching how they tried to save the little dog. That poor lady. Injured. Home lost. Friend lost. I'm hugging my dog as soon I get home tonight.

  2. nv--It really got me, too, that they worked so hard to try to save the dog. I talked to Lt. Harrison today & he said he would much rather have saved the dog than the house. Awwww..... I told him they did their best on both.

  3. I am hoping the lady will be all right. So sorry about the little dog.