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Rapid Response: Mayday training tested in Dallas rescue

Dallas Fire Chief David Coatney credits enhanced RIT training for rescue of three Dallas firefighters in an apartment fire structural collapse


Three firefighters narrowly escaped significant injury or death on Nov. 27, 2018.


What happened: Three firefighters narrowly escaped significant injury or death on Nov. 27, 2018. A little after 9:00 a.m., fire broke out at the Cambridge Park condominiums in Dallas. Firefighters found a rapidly advancing fire in a three-story garden-style apartment. An interior attack was attempted, however the fire led to rapid structural deterioration.

Why it’s significant: A portion of the third floor collapsed onto three firefighters operating on the second floor. The Engine 48 crew was trapped and entangled, while surrounded by significant fire.

The crew was able to call a mayday, alerting others to their peril. As the mayday was occurring and the fire continued to expand, a greater alarm was struck and crews entered a rescue mode. The now 4-alarm response brought approximately 100 personnel to the scene.

Top takeaways on mayday training

I spoke with Dallas Fire Chief David Coatney shortly after the incident about the fire and the rescue. Here are my top takeaways from the incident.

1. The staged USAR RIT was able to fight off the fire and save the downed firefighters

The crew from Station #19 – one of two Heavy Rescue USAR Teams in the City – was staged as the rapid intervention team and was ready to deploy if necessary. The officer from the RIT heard the initial mayday call and launched the team, while notifying command of the situation.

The RIT used an available hose line to fight fire just to be able to gain access to Engine 48’s entangled crew. As their vibralerts began to alert, all three firefighters were successfully rescued.

Chief Coatney commented, “we were very fortunate. All three crew members were successfully rescued and transported to Parkland hospital with minor injuries.” One firefighter stayed in the hospital overnight to be evaluated for smoke inhalation. That firefighter’s mask was knocked off when there was a secondary collapse as they were being rescued. All of the firefighters are now doing well.”

2. Dallas FD had enhanced mayday rescue training

A 2013 fire that resulted in the LODD of Dallas Firefighter Stan Wilson was the unfortunate impetus for a change and improvement in mayday and rescue training. Following that incident, Chief Coatney advises the Dallas Fire Department enhanced mayday training and added a Command Simulation lab.

All command officers and those acting in command roles, along with many of the company officers in the department have been through the incident command training lab. RIT training was also expanded across the department, and is ongoing.

3. Implement mayday training, checklists


I encourage everyone to learn from the Dallas Fire Department story, and to ensure everyone goes through mayday and rapid intervention training. There are many resources available for departments who may be more fiscally challenged. Standardized mayday checklists provide incident commanders with another tool to manage those crisis situations, that are chaotic at best.

What happens next: Firefighting is an inherently dangerous profession, paid or volunteer. Make sure you are availing yourself of all of the training available, including learning how to rescue our own.

Chief Coatney credits his well-trained personnel and their focus on mayday training as making a difference between life and death. “I cannot say enough about how our Mayday training, from individual to incident command and RIT, made a difference that day. Our USAR folks are top-notch and train regularly on RIT activities, but it all came together and worked the way we all pray it will when faced with the situation.”

Learn more about mayday rescue training

Here are some other articles from FireRescue1 to learn more about mayday, rapid intervention team training:

Chief Marc S. Bashoor joined the Lexipol team in 2018, serving as the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. With 40 years in emergency services, Chief Bashoor previously served as public safety director in Highlands County, Florida; as chief of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire/EMS Department; and as emergency manager in Mineral County, West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a National Pro-board certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III and Fire Instructor. Connect with Chief Bashoor at on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have a leadership tip or incident you’d like to discuss? Send the chief an email.