Flashover: A firefighter’s story of safety and survival

Marcus Haynes

By Marcus Haynes, Buckeye (AZ) Fire Department – for Lion Connects

On Oct. 14, 2009, I almost lost my life. I was involved in a flashover that day while responding to a trailer fire in a mobile home park. There are two things I credit for saving me that fall day: training and my personal protective equipment (PPE).

My engine company and I responded to a report of a working fire at a mobile home park on this morning. Upon arrival, we found active fire in the rear of the trailer. As I went in for a search and rescue and fire attack, I encountered dark black smoke at about 2 to 3 feet from the ceiling level, with medium heat and good visibility.

I noticed that the refrigerator was on fire and that all of the material within this trailer was beginning to smoke due to the radiant heat. I noticed some plastics melting and the carpet of the floor heating up. I immediately went to the sleeping quarters of the trailer to do a rapid primary search of the bedroom and bathroom.

As soon as I completed my primary search, the whole trailer flashed. It then went from good visibility to no visibility and from hot temperatures to extreme temperatures. After a failed attempt at a mayday, I began to make my way out of the structure. With no visibility I was able to recognize where I was at by smacking at the cabinets against the wall. This was an effort to work my way back to the door where I then self extricated.

I was flown to the county burn unit with second- and third-degree burns to my arms, leg and hands. All of this happened within 1:58 seconds from our dispatch time to the fire. I was only interior for seven to nine seconds before I was able to get out.

I truly believe that if not for my turnout gear and properly donning it, I would not be here today. If there’s one thing you take away from this, remember not only to advocate that your department has safe and properly maintained PPE, but also make sure to take the extra few seconds and make sure you have the PPE donned properly. You never know when you’ll count on it to save your life.

BE SAFE OUT THERE.

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