August 01, 2006

Ladder truck ops


One week after the barn blaze, there was a fire call over the mountain in my old stomping grounds.

One of my buddies, who is now the assistant chief arrived first and reported heavy smoke. Shortly after that he called for a neighboring fire department to assist. I was still at home, getting ready for work, so I responded at that point.

While I was en route, another fire department was dispatched to assist and my buddy advised dispatch that fire was through the roof. I had more than 20 minutes of a drive, but I still arrived before that third fire department. (I had a head start and a similar distance to cover.)

When I arrived, smoke was thick and gray, and I didn't see any flame. The fire was in the restaurant area of a Days Inn hotel, which I'd been to before for a fire call. The earlier call, some years earlier, warranted a big response -- because of the potential for a conflagration -- with little action.

As I walked around the scene, the chauffeur of the ladder truck recognized me and invited me up on the ladder for some pics.

Two firefighters were on the roof opening up ventilation holes (see photo above), and the ladder truck was their only access to and from the roof, which had fire burning under it on the far side of the building. I was hesitant to get on the ladder and block their escape route should conditions degrade, but the chauffeur said I'd be fine.

Once on the ladder, I went part of the way up and I could see a small amount of flame on the opposite corner. I think most of it was coming from the facade more than the roof. The commercial building setting and the drifting smoke made for some different photos for this part of the world, where most fires are rural and firefighters respond in a more defensive mode.

This fire gave me two new experiences. The first was shooting the fire from the ladder truck (I've shot from atop an engine before). The other new experience was to be crouched outside a door watching flames roll across the false ceiling. It was too dark to make an image of without flash, and smoke reflected any flash and obscured the flames. It was still intense to see that and the firefighters working underneath it.

Even though I'm at a different paper these days, I still work for the same corporation, so my old paper used the photo in this post. I must say it looked better -- more dramatic -- on newsprint.

Posted by JRC at August 1, 2006 06:56 PM | TrackBack