I want to express my tremendous appreciation for the A and B shift crews at Damascus Station 19 for quickly extinguishing their own house fire Easter morning!
Lieutenants Schurter and Santos, Apparatus Operators Gordian and Hinkle, as well as Firefighter Dave Anderson performed their duties well beyond the expectations of our Fire District. I am proud of their prompt reaction to the event that unfolded that morning (I also appreciate Station 19 C shift, but they were lucky enough to be off for this event like I was).
It is rare in our line of work to be called upon to act outside our normal sequence of events, such as 911 call, dispatch and response, etc. It is even more rare to have a shift change while actively combating a structure fire. If it wasn't for their quick actions, we could have easily had someone injured or killed, and not to mention potentially lost the fire station with our costly apparatus in it.
To put this into a better perspective, let me describe some of the obstacles they had to overcome. The oncoming crew arrived to find the off-going crew trying to track down an electrical issue and smell of electrical burning due to a local power surge. Despite the generator running, some circuits were still without power and the transient smell of smoke was becoming increasingly difficult to track down. Once the crews entered the bay, it was quickly recognized that they had an attic fire, while a passerby simultaneously pointed out significant smoke coming from the roof.
The crews were literally in the middle of a shift change and gear swapping as this unfolded. The bay door had to be physically pushed open as it was without power. Apparatus needed to be moved and personal protective equipment donned from various locations such as a personal vehicle, the turnout room and apparatus.
Lt. Schurter ordered the first alarm commercial box and Lt. Santos took command while the rest of the crew went to work, all addressing areas, with little communication (like they had done it before). Lines were pulled, ladders thrown and a vent hole was cut out to facilitate extinguishing the fire. In total, approximately five minutes transpired between discovery, preparing for fire attack and extinguishment. We should be very proud of each of these individuals' performance.
Additionally, I would like to thank the first-alarm companies that arrived (E7, E14, T8 with Firefighter Miller, who had just left E19, HR5, and BC2) for supporting the remaining activities of water supply, fire-attack-group supervision, vent, salvage and overhaul operations. Responding to what you thought was your fellow firefighters potentially in peril takes discipline and resolve. Job well done!
Lastly, thank you to our administrative staff, volunteers and off-duty personnel for showing the crews affected by this fire such huge support. It didn't go unnoticed! Thank you for what you do!
Joshua Gehrke is captain of the Clackamas Fire Emergency Services Division.