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What has been your most dangerous call as a firefighter?

Every call has the potential to be dangerous and at the same time often turn out to be nothing

There’s a chance of danger on any call. A user on Quora recently asked, “As a firefighter, what was your most dangerous call?” A few answers stood out to us, especially one by a former firefighter. You can read his reply below:

I have responded to several calls which were around -40 degrees. The danger becomes exceptionally obvious. When it is that cold, the water separates into a mist which freezes instantly.

I remember a specific fire in San Coolee, Mont. We were training a class of new recruits and I happened to be in the EMT portion of the class. We got a 3-4 alarm fire call (in Montana practically every fire is paged in such a way). The drive was about 45 minutes as it was semi blizzard conditions.

The chief for the district wanted us upon arrival to climb this house and vent the aluminum roof which the crews on scene had been coating with water for 20-30 minutes. My captain and senior firefighter were the only firefighters in this discussion to see the idiocy of this.

We were spraying through the windows of the house, but the wind caused blowback of the water into a freezing mist all over our PPE. The next stupidest thing was when the chief asked one of our firefighters to cut an opening with a chainsaw (may have been a K saw) through the side of the building. Everyone expected the building to flashover, why I am unsure. The windows on every side were vented and the doors all open. There was even a slight collapse in the roof. Well they send this firefighter up and someone makes the command decision for all available nozzle men to fog our firefighter. The water was freezing so rapidly that it literally suffocated the saw of oxygen. The firefighter had sheets of ice covering every part of his body.

They sent me back with the tender a bit earlier than I wanted; however, as one of the nozzle men, I had recieved a large amount of the spray. I remember trying to take off my bottle and mask but both were frozen together in a solid mass. I couldn’t even shut the valve to turn off the air supply.

After getting back a lot of the wives and recruit firefighters were there helping remove PPE. The ice had formed a solid sheet coating everything. I could barely move my fingers anymore as the gloves were solid blocks. My bunker coat and pants were able to retain their own shape and stand alone.

Some of the dangers we face are not what would be expected. Exposure can simply be a life-threatening issue. Everyone there was in danger of hypothermia and every step was dangerous as the small rivers had become ice rinks.

In Montana, a lot of people for some reason have UXO from the Army. I have heard of one such house that old cases of dynamite or TNT were littered in the yard. Firefighters would not even enter the yard as there had been reports of small explosions in the yard.

Another one of these instances was when we were paged to a house after a visit from some individuals (we requested they call dispatch as we were not allowed to just go on a call without dispatch knowing and paging resources). We showed up to the house with a report of dynamite. MHP also had showed up with an explosives trained officer. The officer cleared the box. We decided to go in and check out the “explosives.” I took one of our recruit firefighters who happens to now be one of my best friends. We laugh about it now but we made a joke of opening the ammo canister. I said, “I’ll hold the box and we will open it toward you, this way the box will knock me down and I’ll come back and rescue you.” This was of course a joke as if a canister of explosives were to actually go off in our hands no one would be doing any rescuing.

Every call has the potential to be dangerous and at the same time often turn out to be nothing. Some of the dangers we face and pay the price for are so unexpected there is a certain irony to it. Such as an engine rollover or getting hit by other vehicles. I know of probably a dozen deaths which occurred due to faulty apparatus or poor driving.

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