Wednesday, September 17
For Los Angeles Firefighters at Collision, Heroism and Reality Collide - Firehouse.com News ROBERT J. LOPEZ, GARRETT THEROLF and SCOTT GOLD
Los Angeles Times
There was spaghetti on the stove at Fire Station 96 when the loudspeaker crackled. Right before dinner. Typical.
"Possible physical rescue," the dispatcher said. In firefighter-speak, it was a run-of-the-mill call that gets the emergency response rolling but usually translates into little more than a car wreck. The voice was cold, detached -- numb from the job, perhaps, but also trained to keep emotion at bay.
Los Angeles Fire Capt. Alan Barrios, a brawny, soft-spoken man and a father of three who has been in the business for 32 of his 54 years, climbed aboard his rig with two firefighters and an engineer, his entire engine company. Among the four of them, they'd been on the line for 77 years.
Four minutes after the call, just before 4:30 p.m. Friday, they pulled up to the Chatsworth house where a resident had called 911, at the end of Heather Lee Lane. Barrios could see the smoke now. He sprinted to the back of the house and stared through a chain-link fence. This was no car wreck.
"We are on scene," Barrios barked into his radio. "We have a train collision."
The rescue effort that would unfold from that moment would involve hundreds of firefighters, law enforcement officers and others and would shock the senses of even the most hardened veterans.
By Saturday, as the death toll rose to 25, two parallel narratives had emerged from the mangled cars.
There had been moments of astonishing heroism. An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who survived the crash helped numerous victims get out, despite a broken collarbone, a collapsed lung, a puncture wound in his thigh and a broken hand. Deputy John Ebert, 54, a court bailiff, was in critical but stable condition Saturday evening.
There had been moments of heartbreaking reality, too -- when rescue workers trying to tunnel their way through the wreckage encountered industrial-strength metal that broke their cutting tools; when firefighters were forced to face the fact that for some trapped inside, there was no hope.
And hope, Barrios would say later, "is what keeps us going."
First on the scene
Barrios and his crew cut through the fence and raced for the wreckage. The captain was on his radio as they approached.
The scene started to come into relief. Send five ambulances, he said at first. He got closer and saw the flames. Send 30 firetrucks, he added. Then he was there. The Metrolink engine seemed to be missing. In the head-on crash, a Union Pacific engine had shoved it violently inside the first passenger car, which was lying grotesquely on its side. Two dozen passengers had emerged from the wreckage; some, dazed, were walking in circles against a curtain of black smoke.
Barrios made his last request: Send every heavy search-and-rescue unit in the city.
Kevin Nagel, one of Barrios' firefighters, had helped lug in 600 feet of hose. He had his eye on two 1,000-gallon diesel tanks from the Union Pacific engine. "If those things blow," Nagel told himself, "we're going to lose a lot of people." He and another firefighter began beating back the flames.
Barrios began racing from car to car. More passengers were trying to climb free.
"I had a lot of people yelling at me -- about the fire, about the dead," he said. "They wanted to get out."
Barrios pleaded with them to stay inside. It will be easier to establish a triage center, he told them, if all victims are in one place. But there was a concession, too, in his message; he knew that until the cavalry arrived, he would need to enlist passengers who were relatively unscathed to assist with those who were worse off.
Battalion Chief Joe Castro, a 30-year veteran, arrived several minutes later. He was relaying his initial impressions on his radio when he felt a tug on his leg. It was a victim who had crawled out. Part of his skull was crushed. "Help me," the man said, and Castro did.
"It was the worst thing I'd ever seen," Castro said later.
With the fire under control, Nagel, now joined by several firefighters and a sheriff's deputy, found a door of the front passenger car, the one that absorbed the worst of the impact. "We didn't know what to expect," he said. He shouted inside: "We're right here! We're going to get you out!"
Nagel was no rookie; in his 18-year career he had responded to the Northridge earthquake in 1994, to the Glendale-area crash in 2005 that was, at the time, the deadliest in Metrolink history. But what he found inside, amid the smoke and crumpled metal, was devastating. He began to make dismal calculations. Two or three could be extracted quickly. Six or seven were dead.
"About eight or 10," Nagel said, "were alive but weren't going to make it."
Barrios lives in Moorpark; many of the crash victims, he figured, lived in his community. One man screamed for help; all they could see was his hand sticking out from under another passenger's body. Others were shouting: "Get me out! Get me out!"
"You know these people were going home to their families," Barrios said. "But they're not going home."
On one level, it wasn't a complex mission. "You've got to get them out of there and you've got to get them to the hospital," Barrios said. But he knew it would be more complicated than that.
Rescuers pulled the first two victims out of the front car relatively easily, by throwing aside seats and pulling away wreckage with their hands. Saving anyone else -- even getting to anyone else -- would prove more difficult.
Only one other victim was even partly accessible, a man in his late 40s, his brown boots sticking out from the mangled seat that had trapped him. The man was able to speak, albeit softly because of the pressure on his chest. It took half an hour for rescue workers to cut through an air conditioning unit and a table to get him out, but that man was expected to survive.
It only got harder from there. At one point, the cutting tips of one crew's "jaws of life" broke as firefighters cut through sheets of high-density metal. They had to bring in special saws with diamond-tipped blades.
Not far away, officials were turning a school parking lot into an instant airport, with heliports, fuel trucks and the equivalent of an air-traffic control center.
Helicopters ferried dozens of people to hospitals as others landed with search-and-rescuers carrying "go kits" -- bags packed with lights, devices that allowed them to listen through walls for struggling victims, crowbars and hand-held jacks designed to peel apart distended metal.
The air was thick with the stench of fuel and the noise was deafening -- helicopters, trucks rumbling through the hills. Dogs scoured the cars, trying to find survivors. Rescuers hung powerful spotlights from cranes at dusk.
"It looked and sounded like it came out of a movie," said Searcy Jackson III, a firefighter who reported to the scene from Fire Station 88 in Sherman Oaks. "It didn't look real."
Rescuers went on "autopilot," said Los Angeles Police Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell. He described it as "organized chaos."
"There was so much to do in such a short time frame," McDonnell said. "The thing I'm left with is a tremendous tragedy, of course, but also an acknowledgment of the training and the relationship that exists among first responders. It was critical. And in this case it saved many lives."
They could not, of course, get to everyone in time.
Jackson, the firefighter from Sherman Oaks, arrived about half an hour after the crash and joined a crew that worked feverishly to free a man. At first, all they could see was his hand and part of his torso. Using saws, cutters and spreaders, they were able to wiggle him free.
"It seemed like it was going fast," Jackson said. "It was probably going slow."
When the man was finally freed from the wreckage, it was clear he was going to survive. He thanked the rescuers, but few other words were exchanged. The team moved on. Though Jackson was at the accident site for seven more hours, that man was the only survivor he helped extract.
"You never think you're going to come to a call like this," Jackson said.
Within a few hours of the initial call, the moaning inside the cars had faded away. The Engine 96 crewmen started thinking about their own families; Nagel thought of his wife and three kids.
"It puts a lot of perspective on the little world you're living in," he said.
On Saturday, part of the crew was back at the site, still searching for victims.
"Everybody's numb," Barrios said. "It takes a few days to know what you went through."
Related: California Train Crash Leaves 25 Dead, 138 Injured
Thursday, September 11
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — A lucky cat owes one of its nine lives to a firefighter who revived it with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Al Machado rescued the cat from a burning apartment Tuesday, telling The Standard Times of New Bedford that he saw immediately that it needed air. Machado began performing mouth to mouth on the animal as he carried it outside.
Video shot at the scene shows Machado bent over, breathing into the cat's mouth several times. The cat, a tiger angora, was revived and resting comfortably soon after.
No humans were injured in the fire. A man and woman whose last known address was the building that burned were arrested and charged with arson, authorities said.
Two other cats died in the second-floor apartment, but two dogs there were saved with the help of oxygen from paramedics and animal rescue personnel. Pets on the other two floors — including a ferret and even some frogs on the first floor — were all saved.
Asked what it tasted like to give mouth-to-mouth to a cat, Machado laughed, grimaced and said: "Like fur."
This interactive map presents unfiltered video captured by nine
different eyewitnesses from 10 locations around the World Trade
Center on the morning of September 11th.
Thu. 9/11 @ 9pm/8C
In this commercial-free special, discover rarely seen and heard archives that document the 102 minutes between the first attack on the World Trade Center to the collapse of the second tower.
>> Watch a preview
Listen to radio broadcasts from regional radio stations as the events occurred on that tragic day.
Fire chief, Richard Picciotto, shares his amazing story of rescue and survival.
What is the master plan for Ground Zero? Hear what Daniel Libeskind envisions for the site.
Medical Device Recall: Physio Control, Inc. LifePak CR Plus Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Audience: Emergency medical personnel, other healthcare professionals
Physio Control, Inc., issued a recall of LifePak CR Plus Automated External Defibrillators (AED), used by emergency or medical personnel to treat adults in cardiopulmonary arrest. The product was recalled because the AED instructs the responder by voice prompts to press the shock button which is not visible because it is covered, thereby making the responder unable to provide shock therapy. The AED device should be removed from service, or the manufacturer-provided diagram should be consulted to remove and discard the shock button cover.
Wednesday, September 3
President Martinez needs to be alarmed about fire system - Views
As classes started last week, Santa Ana College still did not have a fully functional alarm system. Once again our students and faculty study and work in a facility where there is a potential for disaster.
Since last year when el Don brought the problem to the public’s attention, steps have been taken to fix the dilapidated system, and progress has been made. However, in July, a contractor was hired to bring SAC up to code and into the 21st century was fired before completing the job.
We now have an alarm system that will sound locally in all buildings except for the library, which is again on fire watch.
Nealley Library — housing an abundance of texts, periodicals and valuable documents that assist students in enriching their education — is susceptible to destruction. The fire watch system is dependent on an on duty observer to be present if a fire were to ignite.
Moreover, the now functioning alarms are not connected to campus safety or to the local fire department. In a situation where every second counts we are losing those moments to on some Johnny- on-the-spot to alert higher-ups of a serious problem.
In a year where more than 30,000 students are enrolled and have entrusted their future and safety to this institution, most are unaware of its structural inadequacies. So now we wait and hope for the best.
A project scheduled for completion this summer is now up for bid again. So, we just might have a new contractor by October, work just might begin two weeks later and it could be finished by April 2009. That, however, is a lot of ifs and buts.
We attend this place of higher learning for an education and hope of a better future. All we ask of our president and her staff is to make SAC a safe place. After all, we have been told that SAC is a family.
We urge President Martinez to complete the job quickly and properly as if it were
her own home and her own family were occupying it.
As long as all goes well and the fire alarm system is in place then this administration might be remembered for more than fire alarms. If the unthinkable were to happen they could be branded by a far worse moniker.
by John Tunison | The Grand Rapids Press HASTINGS -- The sight was horrific to Johnny Montes -- his father-in-law's scorched remains in the blackened shell of a burned car.
He cannot fathom how Hastings firefighters missed making the grim discovery when they extinguished the driveway car fire Friday morning, then cleared the scene after leaving a note on the door advising about insurance notifications.
"You couldn't miss it," an incredulous Montes said Tuesday. "There was no way of overlooking (the remains). There was no possible way."
The remains of Paul E. Bailey Sr., 62, were discovered in the driver's seat of a Monte Carlo by his daughter about 2 1/2 hours after the Hastings Fire Department left Bailey's home on Far Away Drive in Rutland Township.
Michigan State Police at the Hastings post are investigating the death as fire officials conduct an internal review of the incident, trying to determine how the remains were missed.
Fire Chief Roger Caris, who was not at the fire, defended his department Tuesday. He said a badly burned body, particularly one exposed to extreme heat and flames, might be difficult to recognize.
"The car was totally destroyed," Caris said.
Caris was told that firefighters did examine the car before leaving the scene and even tried to find the vehicle identification number. He believes they opened the car door to look inside.
"We always check everything over to make sure the fire is out," he said. "They looked in the windshield."
But Montes, who is married to Bailey's daughter, Renee, said he could see Bailey's skull and other bones inside the car. The disturbing mental images have caused sleeping problems, and Montes said both he and his wife are on medication.
"It's killing us," he said.
Autopsy results were not available Tuesday, but Montes questioned whether Bailey might have suffered a heart attack and dropped a cigarette inside the car. The vehicle was parked near the house and the fire melted the siding.
Bailey, who operated Bailey's Concessions and owned several concessions trailers, was the only one home when the fire started. Montes was waiting for Bailey to arrive at a Gun Lake restaurant that Bailey was trying to sell. They planned to show the restaurant to a prospective buyer that morning.
"He had those people coming, and I know he wouldn't have missed it," said Montes, who eventually went looking for Bailey.
He believes fire officials should apologize.
"They haven't even said they made a mistake," Montes said. "They are making excuses."
Should they apologize? What do you think?
Former Redondo Beach fire chief dies - The Daily Breeze
Richard Bridges, who served as fire chief in Redondo Beach for five years, died Monday. He was 64.
Bridges, a Redondo Beach resident who held the city's top fire job from 1989 to 1994, most recently served as associate dean of public safety and fire technology at Santa Ana College, running the school's fire academy.
"He was an inspiration to a lot of people here at the college and we are all better people for having known him," academy commander Ken Soltis said.
Bridges' death resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
His wife, Alice, said he had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor 14 months ago.
Alice Bridges summoned fire officials Monday when she found her husband.
Bridges was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
"He gave it the good fight and I think had gotten to the point where he just had enough," Alice Bridges said.
"What has sustained him over the last 14 months is his undying faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He just really had a strong belief in God and that people need to know the truth about the Bible. He led his life that way."
Bridges was fire chief in National City from 1979 to 1983 and in Daly City before he was hired to run the Redondo Beach department in 1989.
Bridges took the fire chief job in Santa Monica in 1994.
Bridges moved on to Santa Ana College in 1997, running the program that trained students to become firefighters and other positions in the fire services.
Bridges underwent surgery and chemotherapy and recently had some surgeries because of complications from medication, his wife said.
He worked through the beginning of the summer, Soltis said.
"Excellent, excellent man," Soltis said. "You just can't say enough about someone like him. He was definitely a quality individual."
Bridges was married to his wife for 28 years. They had two daughters and four granddaughters.
"He was a wonderful man and had so many people loving him and praying for him all around the world," his wife said.
"I think that's why we have sustained the journey for so long. He was quite a man."
RIP Jefe. It was an honor to work for you, and with you. You will be sorely missed, but your lessons will always be remembered. Thank you. SF
A celebration memorial service for Richard Bridges in the main sanctuary will be held on this Friday, September 5th at 3:00 p.m.to 4:00 p.m. at Rolling Hills Covenant Church.Please note Alice has requested that dress be business casual.
2222 Palos Verdes Dr. N., Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274
Church Telephone Number: 310-519-9406. (mapquest)
There is a website that you can go to: www.LAfuneral.com.
There is a ice cream sundae buffet to follow which is downstairs in Carlson Hall.
Please continue to spread the word.
Band members from rock band have agreed to pay $1 million in total to survivors and victims families who were in a fire sparked by their pyrotechnics during one of their shows.
The gig took place at The Station nightclub in February 2003 in West Warwick, Rhode Island, USA, after sparks from pyrotechnics used at the opening of the show ignited foam that was used for soundproofing around the stage.
Approximately 100 people died, including guitarist Ty Longley, and 200 people were injured in the tragedy which, according to Associated Press, was the fourth deadliest fire in American history.
The once Grammy Award-nominated did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement payment.
Their offer makes a total of about $175 million offered by dozens of defendants to settle lawsuits after the blaze.
After the fire survivors and victims' families sued several dozen defendants such as foam companies, a rock radio station that ran adverts for the gig, the club's owners and the local fire marshal.
The band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele, who shot off the streams of pyrotechnics that started the blaze at the start of the show, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2006 and was recently paroled having served half of his four-year sentence.