Fright of Fire

By Willa Wick in Community

It’s hard to believe a 5” doll could save a house, but things work in mysterious ways. I always figured “it would never happen to me” because I try to be so careful – but it did – and fortunately there was minimal damage.
I hate to admit that I’m an eBay eccentric, but had I not been “watching my bid” late that evening I may no longer have a house. It was nearly midnight when I heard a clunk, went outside to investigate, and saw red glowing through a corner of the vinyl siding.
Thank goodness I’m not one to panic or go into hysterics. As one hand was hitting 911 the other was filling a saucepan with water. First attempt wasn’t much good as I don’t aim too well with my left hand. Second attempt (while still talking to dispatch) got a sizzle, smoke and steam but the red continued. With the third I knew it was useless.
The next thing I did was grab my purse and laptop, throw them in the van and exit my driveway to the lane next door so there would be room for the fire truck. After that I connected the hose and was just starting to dribble water (kink in the hose) on the melted corner as the fire trucks barreled down the road.
There seemed to be so many trucks and people (both Clifford and Harriston responding), but that is normal. There weren’t sirens because at midnight there’s no traffic on the roads to be warned of an emergency. Everyone was so efficient, there was no chaos – one group did this, one group did that, those who knew me personally had words of encouragement – and believe it or not, by the time the crews left shortly after 1:30 a.m. there was very little mess. The boys had to tear off some siding, chainsaw out some wood framing, and pull out gobs of wet and charred insulation – but it was all piled neatly in the snow.
All of us knew how lucky I was. But I know it was more than luck. I know how fortunate I am to live in a community where the volunteers of our fire and rescue services are so knowledgeable, and quick to respond.
As the dust settled and a bunch of us stood on the deck waiting to make sure there were no more hot spots which might start again, I quipped that the least I could do was to go in and make a huge pot of coffee. I heard “Oh no, can’t have coffee, we’d never get back to sleep!” Duh, of course, most of these men (and woman) were roused from their beds to go out on a call. 6 a.m. was going to come awfully soon when these volunteers would have to get up again and prepare for their regular day jobs.
That poses the question, “Just what does happen when one dials 911”?
In my case I was on a cordless, but a land line, and the dispatch operator knew exactly the address I was calling from. This would be exceptionally helpful if the caller were hysterical or otherwise unable to converse coherently.
A cell phone poses a problem as location doesn’t register to dispatch and they do not have access to know exactly from where a cell phone is calling.
This happens many times when rescue teams are sent to a motor vehicle accident. Most people are not sure exactly where they are, so they give an area they think they are in, or landmarks. (That’s the beauty of small town living, most of the crew are familiar with the landmarks they’re given because they’ve grown up in the area).
Dispatch assesses the type of emergency (medical/accident/fire) asks if there are others present and,
backed up by a prewritten group of cue cards, plus previous experience, can give the caller good advice to follow until rescue departments arrive on scene.
Minto area is dispatched by the Guelph Fire Department. All fire departments in Wellington County are dispatched through Guelph.
The policy for the Minto Fire Department is that for any structure fire, two stations are automatically sent out (in this case it was Harriston and Clifford). This is done for multiple reasons. There are many tasks on scene that need to be performed to complete the job and ensure that the scene stays safe for all those working. Completing all these tasks takes a large number of people. There is also the need to have back up crews ready in the wings to relieve the first crews once they have worked for a period of time. Sometimes it can be such physically demanding work that having relief crews standing close by is an important aspect. Finally, water supply is a huge task, especially in the rural setting. Water has to be trucked to the scene and an apparatus set up to pump the water being brought in, all of which takes quite a few personnel to accomplish it efficiently.
After the volunteers race to the base they are told that they’re heading to a structure fire (sometimes, but not always, they know it’s a house as opposed to a barn fire.) No one knows at the time whether the crew will be facing a large house, small house, a building that is totally engulfed in flame, or one with a small fire located in a room. Many times the team is not told the number of people living at the house or whether everyone is accounted for. On the way to the fire the different crews are assigned. There will be a crew ready to perform a search of the house, two crews to get hose lines ready to fight the fire, and a couple of crews to get water supply set up. Most of the time, this is discussed on the way to the call so everyone is prepared when they arrive on scene.
The fire fighters know exactly what to do through many hours of practice. They train on a regular basis and attend special training sessions. They hate to see someone’s house on fire and know it’s up to them to remain focused and use skills they’ve learned. They are taught to enter a house and proceed to the right and search the building room by room by always staying in contact with the wall so that they can find their way back out again. It takes a lot of training to make sure everyone is doing it the same way. There’s also what’s called an Accountability Section. The personnel running this area physically keep track of all firefighters going in and out of a building. It is a very important job to keep track of everyone on scene.
Each crew is assigned a name (attack crew, search and rescue crew etc.) and have one person who is in charge of that crew. That crew talks with, and receives instructions from the Incident Commander – the person in overall command of the entire crisis.
There are two messages on which the Fire Department continues to lecture. First, it is mandatory that all houses have working smoke alarms on every level (including the cellar/basement) and outside each sleeping area.
Also very important is that every house should have a home escape plan that is written and practiced. It’s imperative for families to have these two life saving items.
Recently there was a tragic fire in East Gwillimbury where a family of four passed away in a house fire. It was found during the investigation that there was a lack of working smoke alarms in the house and that may have contributed to their passing.
It’s a big message with a small investment that could save your life. Make sure you have your family protected. Don’t be a statistic. The key word is “working” – ensure those smoke alarms have fresh batteries.
Many of our readers will be wondering “did she have a working detector?” The answer is yes, but I became aware of the fire and had a 911 response team attending the scene in time to prevent smoke inside the house.
The next time you see any fire department personnel, stop and be humbled while you consider how vital these volunteers are to our
communities.

 

The vintage china eBay doll that may have saved a house.

The vintage china eBay doll that may have saved a house.