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It All Comes Together

It All Comes Together

A unique tradition that silently hangs on the walls of the fire house.  Don’t just pass by them – stop, reflect, and understand them.  These pictures and company brief hang on the wall at Engine 17, written by Lt. Bryan Rickles.  A reminder to the new and seasoned members of pride, purpose, and dedication.

February 18,2016 – Baylen Street Fire


The shift begin just like any other shift.  Truck checks were performed.  Crew meeting took place.  We had a new part time firefighter on the rig, so we did our usual routine of pulling hose and going through the reasons of why we do certain stretches.  We took him on a district tour, showing him a shell of a house where a teenage boy had recently passed away as a result of a structure fire.  We educated him that this could happen again, and it would happen again.  The district was full of homes like this.  Small, old corner lot with chain link fence and horrible wiring with no working smoke detectors.

That prediction came true less than 24 hours after making the remarks.

At exactly 0530 hours, we received the call for a structure fire with entrapment.  Not possible entrapment.  ENTRAPMENT.  Four children and possible mom too.

As we were getting closer, dispatch notified us of multiple calls.

The picture above is what we saw on arrival.  It looked and felt hopeless.

Engine 17 was tasked with getting lots of water on the house and doing it fast.  Engine 3 performed Vent Enter Search in the only room on the C/D corner that had a potential for survival.  It happened to be the room where the four children were located.  In all my career I’ve never been so nervous for a fellow brother firefighter as I was that morning for when Lt. Van Matre and FF McCombs entered the room to VES.  It made our jobs on the nozzles that much more important.  We weren’t just extinguishing this fire for children.  We were extinguishing it to protect our friends who were without question in the most dangerous place on earth at that moment.  All available personnel on Engine 17 were on a nozzle flowing water to extinguish the fire.

In the end, the children didn’t survive.  It was beyond our control.  Time and distance worked against us, but years and years of training all came together in the first few minutes of arriving on scene.

There was very little spoken word amongst the two engine company members in the first five minutes.  Training took over.  Each individual took care of tasks that we as a department have practiced over and over.  It has become muscle memory for those who take their training seriously and realize that at a moment like this it will be all you have to rely on to get the job done.

For all the new firefighters on this job, embrace the training.  There is no predicting when the next Baylen Street fire will occur.  The only thing we know is that it will happen again and being prepared is the only thing you can do to help you cope with the intense emotional struggle you will feel when the fire is out, and you return to the fire station and as you return home to your family and friends. 

If you train every shift, it will come together in the moment when you need it most.

Lt. Bryan Rickles

Engine 17 – Escambia County Fire Rescue

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