Remembering Pearl Harbor’s Purple Heart Firefighters

Battleships burn after Japanese Air Raids on Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Photo courtesy Wikimedia/National Archives.

Battleships burn after Japanese Air Raids on Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Photo courtesy Wikimedia/National Archives.

On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor Naval Air Base in Hawaii was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy, claiming the lives of over 2,400 military personnel and wounded over 1,200.

In addition to the military members killed, there were 48 civilians on the island that also perished on that fateful day. Three of those civilians were members of the Honolulu Fi Continue reading

Why Are We Going In?

Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons

(Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons)

With houses burning quicker and hotter than ever, and firefighter deaths remaining high, it’s time to step back and ask why we’re always going in. Continue reading

The Apparatus Crash Epidemic, and How We Can Prevent It

Crashes involving emergency, like this one in Huntington, WV, are becoming a common sight in the United States. (Photo by flickr user dfirecop)

Crashes involving emergency, like this one in Huntington, WV, are becoming a common sight in the United States. (Photo by flickr user dfirecop)

For those who frequently read or watch the news, it should come as no surprise that one of the most common instances of emergency services in the news include responding to incidents. However, more often than needed, the news is the emergency they’ve caused themselves during their response through an apparatus crash Continue reading

Banner incident shows firefighters’ misunderstanding of new technology, firemen’s convention

The Williamstown Fire Company is in hot water after a photo of a banner asking to see certain female body parts found it's way to the local media. (Photo screenshot of Williamstown FC website)

The Williamstown Fire Company is in hot water after a photo of a banner asking to see certain female body parts found it’s way to the local media. (Photo screenshot of Williamstown FC website)

If you’ve seen the local news in the last week, you’ve likely heard about the controversy brewing a few miles north in Williamstown, NJ thanks to a lewd banner that found its way onto a balcony in Wildwood during firemen’s convention.

Aside from being a ridiculously bad idea by those who Continue reading

Change from Tragedy

 

The Hackensack Ford Fire cost the lives of three firefighters. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons).

The Hackensack Ford Fire cost the lives of three firefighters in 1988. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons).

On July 1st, 1988, the Hackensack Fire Department in Northern New Jersey was dispatched for a reported fire at the Hackensack Ford auto dealership in downtown Hackensack. When the initial crews arrived at the massive auto display and repair building, a light smoke condition existed near the roof, with no visible fire or smoke in the display area.

Firefighters investigated the building and a small fire was found in the attic of the servicing department, and area used as storage for auto parts. Several crews of firefighters went to work, venting a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape, and beginning to put water on the fire in the attic area.

However, conditions began to rapidly deteriorate due to the large amount of auto parts fueling the fire, and at 3:34pm, commanders on location ordered all firefighters to evacuate the building due to heavy fire presence. However, less than two minutes after the evacuation was issued, the building’s 60-ton bowstring trussed roof collapsed, killing three firefighters – Capt. Richard Williams, FF William Krejsa, and FF Leonard Radumski – instantly.

As other firefighters attempted to escape the collapsing inferno, two firefighters took shelter in a tool storage room – Lt. Richard Reinhagen and Firefighter Stephen Ennis. Reinhagen and Ennis had become trapped in the room due to the surround collapse and tried desperately over the department’s radios to call for help – but due to high radio traffic and poor radio quality, their calls were never heard. They eventually ran out of air and perished before fellow firefighters reached them.

The deaths of five firefighters was a devastating one to the town of Hackensack, who had never seen such a tragedy unfold in their own town, and had never lost a firefighter in the department’s 17-year history.

A subsequent report by the NFPA and the International Association of Fire Fighters’ found that ineffective leadership, poor communications and the failure of command personnel to recognize that the roof could collapse led “needless” death of the five firefighters. HFD immediately began to make changes in the way they responded to fires, and set a national precedent when it came to fire response.

A series of sweeping changes came as a result of the Hackensack Ford fire. New Jersey became the first state in the nation to require by law the display of a placard on the outside of all commercial businesses designating the type of construction the building contains. Other changes included the now-common practice of firefighter wearing Personal Alert Safety Systems, or PASS- a device worn by firefighters that sets off a loud alarm and LED light to help locate a firefighter in trouble that is either activated after a period of no motion or can be manually activated by a firefighter.

Finally, it became common practice for fire departments to use separate channels for dispatching and fireground operations, something that was not done on the day of the Hackensack fire. Until after the incident, the same channel was used by both the dispatching center that was attempting to get more units to the fire and the firefighters trapped inside, with the more powerful dispatch radios cutting out the trapped firemen’s pleads for help.

Often, major catastrophes led to changes that better the fire service and prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

Forever Changed: The Road to Recovery

The reflection pool at the site of the South Tower of the World Trade Center at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City on August 16, 2012. (Bruce Knoll Jr/ Notions of Knoll)

The reflection pool at the site of the South Tower of the World Trade Center at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City on August 16, 2012. (Bruce Knoll Jr/ Notions of Knoll)

Living in South Jersey, we’re within only a few hours of driving to New York City—“The city that never sleeps.” Times Square, The Rockefeller Center, Central Park, The United Nations, and dozens of other tourist destinations draw millions of visitors to the city each year.

Thanks to my girlfriend who has a love for the arts, I’ve been in the city rather frequently the last few years, and have taken in many of the tourist attractions myself. But not a trip goes by where the events of September 11th don’t cross my mind. Continue reading

A Different Kind of “Challenge”

Consider challenging yourself this fall and getting back into the classroom. Photo courtesy flickr user ijames.

Consider challenging yourself this fall and getting back into the classroom. Photo courtesy flickr user ijames.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been taking the social media world by storm, with users flocking to dump water on their heads in support of the ALS Foundation.

And the campaign has been extremely successful, with at least $30 million Continue reading