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Special to Must see series of photos of flashover that ignites firefighter’s gear. The story from Erwin, North Carolina.

Firefighter Will Gregory exits the home with his PPE on fire. Photo by Brian Haney, The Daily Record.

Firefighter Will Gregory exits the home with his PPE on fire. Photo by Brian Haney, The Daily Record.

Click here for the entire article by Brian Haney at alerted me to this close call from a fire Monday morning in Erwin, North Carolina. I contacted Brian Haney, the man who took these pictures and wrote the article about the fire for The Daily Record in Dunn. Brian gave permission to post some of his photos. Click the image below for the slide show Jillian Coyle at put together for us. It includes the time stamp on each image.


The fire was at 1105 Denim Drive. According to Brian’s article, the fire started because of an electrical problem in the attic. A passerby first noticed smoke running the roof line of the house. The four people who live in the home were away when the fire was discovered.

Now to the flashover. Here’s the description from Brian Haney’s article:

Erwin firemen Michael Bradley and Will Gregory worked to put the fire out from inside the home.

Suddenly, shouts could be heard over the radios of the firefighters working outside and the two firemen inside tumbled out the front door, rolling on the front porch. They were on fire.

Other firefighters rushed to the porch and helped put out their comrades. Once Officers Bradley and Gregory were no longer on fire, they continued to fight the fire.

The men had been caught in a flashover, which happens when all combustible materials in a room ignite at one time.

“It was a bad experience,” Mr. Gregory said.

He said nothing like that had happened to him before in a situation that wasn’t controlled.

“When you do a live burn, you get to walk through the house,” he said, “and this house I ain’t never been in till today.”

He said it was like going into a blind box and wishing for the best.

“Today we went in, the conditions changed very rapidly, we were trying to get out and things happened too fast,” he said.

Mr. Gregory said the flashover happened when he knocked out a bedroom window for ventilation.

“The heat came on us and it blackened,” he said. “As soon as it went black, I looked behind me and it had already lit off. It looked like somebody poured gas on it.”

In the end, though, he said he was just worried about getting his crew out, which he did successfully.

“The guys are good and everybody’s home safely,” he said.

The only damage, he said, was to equipment, things that can be replaced. Back at the truck he held up a thermal imaging camera. The exterior had mostly melted.

Dunn Emergency Services and Coats-Grove Fire Departmentprovided mutual aid for the Erwin Department. 


Comments - Add Yours

  • Sam

    Is that a RIT team standing in the front yard? If so, why didnt they react? If its not, then why didnt they react anyway?

  • jonwad

    I know pictures don’t represent everything but would this have happened is the firefighter was not standing up?

  • Sean

    “Once Officers Bradley and Gregory were no longer on fire, they continued to fight the fire.”

    I sure hope that’s not true. What Incident Commander in their right mind would allow them to continue doing ANYTHING in that PPE? Let alone the fact that regardless of how they felt at the time a full head-to-toe physical by EMS should be done immediately.

  • concerned

    what about the UNCHARGED HOSELINES???? nothing suprises me about Erwin FD!!!

  • Chief Joe

    This is not meant as a criticism as I was not there but as a lesson learned….CHARGE that RIT/Back-up line!

  • Anonymous

    I can’t arm chair quarterback this too much,but I wonder if a more coordinated attack with ventilation prior to entering the structure could have helped prevent this. Just thankful the guys weren’t hurt or worse. Yes, equipment can be replaced. And in a house that size, I can understand how they might not think it could happen. Looks like a small house. Just remember, ventilation is your friend! Do it early and do it often!

  • DC Firefighter

    Man I wish I could just look at a picture and know everything there is to know about that situation, at that time, through the eyes of those men, knowing everything that they know, and then making the decision that will have everyone on here praising me, my company, or my department. But since everyone on here is a ‘know it all’, it probably would have been easy for you guys to have mitigated such a cut and dry “bread and butter” fire…right. I mean the view from your glass houses must be SPECTACULAR! How are you all not Chief officers on the speaking circuit with the Rube?

    One day I hope to be that good. To know everything, and then be able to tell everyone else what they should do on a fire-ground, what a gift! You guys should head over to Copenhagen to help out those fellas trying to straighten out our world climate issues, or better yet head on down to Pennsylvania Ave to help the fearless leaders of our country handle some of our country’s issues. Clearly you have firefighting down to perfection, it’s time to move on to other ventures.

    The fact is that some of us in this profession understand that the emergencies that we respond to are unstable situations. And that even when we make the RIGHT decision based on our training and experience things go bad or wrong and there are consequences. What matters, for those of us who have experienced these situations, is how we can recover and continue the fight. That is what makes the difference, and that is what separates fireman from those who wear the T-shirts and want to stand in the front yard and watch a building burn with people inside, or watch a family lose everything they own. When the cops get a call for a man with a gun, do they say, “Hell No, I could get shot, guns are dangerous, I ain’t going to that call!” The fact is that some public safety jobs are dangerous, that’s why they are called ‘Pubilc Safety’ we are charged with the public’s protection and safety. Through experience from calls like this one, and training we can learn from what happened, maybe recognize the signs that were missed, or see something next time that we didn’t. Those would have been good post comments to this story. Maybe ask what they saw before this event changed their fire ground? Or what was showing when they arrived on scene, what was the report, people trapped? Did they use their Mayday, ‘Save your Own’ training, have they had any? Or maybe they are just an aggressive fire department, I personally do not know much about this department, but they were doing their jobs and I am glad that no one was hurt. We must use our EXPERIENCE and TRAINING to REDUCE those dangers, but they cannot be eliminated unless we DON’T DO OUR JOB.

    Stop hating on people because you look at a photo, or watch a you-tube video. You weren’t there and have no idea what happened up to the time that photo was taken. At least they were doing their job, maybe some of you guys that get on here should suggest to your Chief’s that you get rid of the hose, ladders, and water that you carry on your rigs and replace them with Marshmallows and Graham Crackers, it would certainly be better for your budgets.

  • Anonymous

    oh the comments from Gods gifts to the fire service…

  • WFDT

    Looks like another DCFD sprinkler demo. :P

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  • FireMedic

    Well put DC Firefighter!!! I was actually sitting here thinking allot of the same. You just gotta love hardcore vollies that sit at home and choose what calls they go to but still know everything about the fire service. Wow I wish I had that glory all the time. Oh well…

    All in all glad everyone is okay that was involved in this incident

  • the Deputy

    what does being a volunteer have to do with any of this?i am a just glad all were ok and able to go home at the end of the day,firemedic please get your head out of the sand!

  • DCFF

    Sean- Get back on the ambulance, we don’t need you in the fire service.

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  • 1603

    Does anyone know what an LODD Means? At least we don’t have any papers for the Chief’s of that department to fill out or NO drives to another Fallen Brother’s wife or family to deliver the heartbreaking news. To go thru all the sad moments of a wake and funeral. We are just what they are. FIREFIGHTERS! We love our jobs and we perform as we have been trained. Maybe we need to train a lot MORE! I’m a Volunteer Captain and a career Firefighter in NC. Training is a very important value we in-trust our lives everyday on the job. NO training can ever get us prepared for the real dangers we face out in the real world. If so, there would be a lot less Firefighters in this world today. However, train to the point of knowing what to do when the real thing comes and bites you in the butt. Pay attention to detail and be there for one another when we need it most. Please don’t bash Firefighters whether career or volunteer. There are good ones out there in both aspects. Grasp the ability to train and be safe. Learn the signs, know the risks, and be prepared for the dangers. I’m so glad to know all the firefighters get to go home to see their families during the holidays and not become a name on a memorial wall at The National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial in Maryland…

    God bless our Brothers and Sisters in the Public Safety Profession.

  • Engine Lt

    I have to agree with DC Firefighter. These pics are a mere moment in time, not the big picture. These guys certainly learned something (and thankfully didn’t get hurt) and many others can learn from it as well. Don’t rake them over the coals as this does no good to anyone. Gather your crew and officer and review the pics together. Discuss what type of conditions you see and what it means. It does no good to sit idle and just second guess their tactics. They are a different FD with different staffing, policies, equipment, experience, etc, etc. Plus you have no idea what the conditions were like 30 seconds ago let alone when they entered the building. Talk about what you and your department would do if this was you stuck in this situation. I was involved in an incident 5 years ago that received national attention. After getting out of the trauma center and finally home to my family and on the road to recovery, I found several blogs discussing our situation. As is usual, they were bashing us and discussing how unsafe and unprofessional we were. They were able to tell all this from merely reading a small article and looking at two pictures. Little do they know that not only were their assumptions about our actions WRONG, that our department is actually a very professional, busy, well experienced group of individuals. We have officers and firefighters alike teaching at the local/regional/national level. We are an old, mid-size city that still has fires on a regular basis. We have 2-3 companies that are routinely in the top 50 busiest companies in the nation. (this is not meant as bragging, just trying to prove a point-you can bash me for bragging if you would like though) But yet these individuals from across the country knew us better by simply sitting on their rump and second guessing. We as the fire service need to get over ourselves and just learn from others experiences (notice I didn’t say mistakes) instead of just bashing them. So, I challenge you to look over this again from a different point of view, learn something and then pass on what you learned to someone else in your department. [Sorry for ranting about my experience 5 years ago, I just needed a good old fashioned firefighter venting session!]

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  • ccfd

    uhhh bro ur on fire…

  • Roger

    Photographs don’t lie and a trained firefighter and instructor looking at these photos has one question, WHY WHY WHY are you standing up! Hope everyone is ok.

  • Woody Fireman

    ventilation ventilation ventilation ventilation ventilation

    This could have been prevented by ventilation.

  • Erwin 515

    Imagine that, people that have no idea of how my department or even my county operates trying to talk trash. Just so you know between the 2 that got burned there was around 25 years of experience between them. 1 of them is a NC level 2 instructor as well as a live burn instructor, so he knows not to stand up in a fire. Both are NC FF 2, NC D/O, NC technical rescuers, both are medically certified by NCOEMS. Everything that you see in that picture took place within the first 5 mins of being on scene. There was never a point in that call where an individual was yelling or shouting on the radio. As for WFDT comment: “Looks like another DCFD sprinkler demo.” You couldn’t be more wrong! There was no fire in the front of the house when they entered, the only time they were entirely surrounded by fire was when the front of the house flashed & they were in the middle of the house making a knock on the fire. Also, add in the fact that they lost pressure on the hose lines when they were inside after they had hit the seat of the fire & darkened it down. Let me clarify that these pics. are not of them making entry, they are when the firefighters were bailing out of the house. If you know anything about the fire service or better yet if you would just read the article it clearly states that the conditions deteriorated rapidly after they hit the fire. As for a RIT team in the front yard, yes that is what you see the 2nd engine company deploying a back up line, but you weren’t there to see the fact that they had just gotten the line flaked out & were in the process of charging it. Once these 2 got outside they DID NOT CONTINUE fighting the fire, they made an attempt to pull the handline out since it was the only charged one at that time. Other firefighters arriving on scene relieved them of that, but for a brief period of about 1-2 mins. yes they did spray water to try & keep from burning themselves & others as well as the houses next door until the situation was brought under control. To go with the comment by: Roger says “Photographs don’t lie and a trained firefighter and instructor looking at these photos has one question, WHY WHY WHY are you standing up! Hope everyone is ok.” Yes they are okay they were immediatly checked out on scene by paramedics & they had no burns as well as their vital signs were within our county protocols normal limits. Neither ff was injured & as for them standing up he was on fire prior to this & he is getting off the porch in the photo you see above. The next picture you see is of them dragging firefighter Bradley off the porch & extinguishing ff Gregory’s head. Their gear ignited when they had to crawl through a room that had flashed not while standing up in the fire. After things calmed down & the other units & ff’s arrived on scene the rest of the fire was pretty routine. I’d say it was brought under control within 5 mins of the picture you see above. Thanks to all of you who have been positive & used constructive criticism with you comments, as for those who have been negative all I can ask is why? Things such as this should not be used to bash your brothers. I used to be one of you & after having some close experiences over my career in the fire service I do not get on these sites & Monday morning quarterback things anymore. Mainly b/c I was not at your fire & I do not know how your SOP’s dictate the way you operate.

    Finally for: concerned “what about the UNCHARGED HOSELINES???? nothing suprises me about Erwin FD!!!” I think I have a good idea of who you are, I may be wrong though. Anyways, I am pretty sure you don’t know a damn thing about how Erwin FD operates. So if you are who I think just keep running your mouth wishing you could be privileged to be a part of our organization. You know absolutly nothing about Erwin, b/c our members are too dedicated & too good to even think about bashing the way we operate on scene. Yes we admit that we are not perfect at how we do things, but guess what the house was still standing & the family did not lose everything. With a trip to the laundry mat or washing machine they will still have clothes for some of them.

    Thanks again to you all for your input. We will use it to try & make all attempts at preventing this again in the future. Have a great day & be safe in the discharge of you duties.

  • DC Firefighter

    Erwin 515,

    Way to go don’t take the S*@T from these “armchair” monday morning quarterbacks that took a class at FDIC and are all of a sudden “experts” on how everyone should do their jobs. We are constantly getting the same people on these blog sites telling us how to do our jobs up here in DC.

    Glad you guys are alright. Keep doing your job the way you guys do, learn from every run, and be safe.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the caption in this months FireEngineeing, that follows it up with from the “Culture of Extinguishment”. Those who get on here and criticize are more concerned with telling others what to do and how to operate their departments.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, you were there you know what really happened, don’t worry what these clowns get on here and say.

    -Your friends up here in DC.

  • E7cook

    It is great news to hear that the firefighters were not hurt in this event. Certifications and experience aside, there are things that we will encounter that can bring 20-30 veterans back to the same level as a year 1 firefighter because it has not been encountered this way before.

    I would hope that at some point, the firefighters involved and the IC would bring their observations into a forum that would address what they saw during the event and how it unfolded around them. They won’t be able to change the opinions of some people who think that this was inexcusable. But I believe that there are a good number of firefighters who would read that and be able to take something valuable away from that forum.

    Just my humble request. Stay Safe.

  • Will Gregory

    My name is Will Gregory I’m the firefighter in the photo that was taken on Monday December 14 2009. Just wanted to say thank you for the comments and concerns that everyone has posted concerning the fire that I was involved in on Monday morning. In my 18 years of service I have had some close calls but nothing like Monday morning, to answer some questions yes there were some problems with some things that could have been corrected. Water Supply wasn’t a factor we caught our own line going in, but the experience at the pump panel caused some problems.Understand if you are paid or volunteer you need the knowledge and training to keep up with your skills as a Firefighter or Driver Operator. Some departments are still stuck in old school ways for example knocking out windows as you do your walk-around, without communicating with your suppression crews, becomes a problem with the interior crews inside. Yes the lord was on my side that day and I also feel like I had someone else that was looking over me as well, my true friend and father Connie Beasly. Never take things for granted things can go wrong fast. Thank you all and stay safe.
    Will Gregory (Email) – 12/19/09 – 13:41

  • LadderJake

    I won’t critique any ones fire. I try to make decisions when first due that are from sound practices and training!I also constantly think about getting my guys home the same way they came to work. Woody nailed it on the head with his comment regarding VENTILATION. The article said the fire originated in the attic due to an electrical problem, there are alot of ventilation techniques out there however: you need to vent above or on the same level. If the lid was taken off the place first the outcome would’ve been quite different. Elvis had a song that said “Only fools rush in!” This job had no one home at the time so the risk versus gain is a no brainer. Come on guys let’s practice EVERYONE GOES HOME!!!

  • Allen Monds, Asst. Chief

    I would ecourage ALL Erwin Firefighters to steer away from making any negative posts, and/or comments on this blog. This is not a practice that we perform, nor allow. We have a chain of command that should be followed, and if there are any questions about this incident or our tactics, the Fire Chief or Assistant Chiefs can be contacted. Don’t turn this into a pissing contest with folks that you don’t know unless they are inquiring for learning purposes. Again, we have a chain of command. Don’t let these posts get you upset, and more importantly; don’t get yourself in a bind with your job. We will continue to train as we always have and mark this up as a learning experience. Everyone went home. God bless all of you and I pray that he will keep you safe. Merry Christmas.

  • DC Firefighter


    You start off your post by stating ” I won’t critique anyones fires”, and then throughout your post you proceed to mention things that you would have done differently, again judging from a picture that is a snapshot in time for an event that you weren’t there to see for yourself. You end up criticizing the men in that photo in your own subtly obvious way that smacks of patronization. Why don’t you stick to worrying about what goes on under your own “Lid”, and let others worry about their own actions.

  • fire23421

    looking at the pic of the gear was this just a good roll over or was it a flashover??? just wondering??

  • Gillian Cox

    Thanks for the reminder that we should use ALL pictures posted for “What If” senarios in our own departments. Although we’d all like to be, none of us is perfect yet, so lets just keep practicing to all become better. As for the negative comments, I find that the comeback “and what mistakes/challenges have you faced and what have you learned from them, please share.” Usually gives negative people something to distract them!
    I espically appreciate the feedback from those of you that were there (and captured in the images!), this makes using the images for learning opportunities much more effective! glad you are all safe and home for the Holidays.

  • LadderJake

    Hey DC what are you the site moderator? Firstly; my comments in no way were meant as a critique. I mentioned about ventilating which is a basic tactic. Also there were no criticisms of anyone. Not even a “subtle” mention of anything. As far as worrying about what goes on under my own lid this statement is ignorant! These forums are used to share experiences that may be used to prevent a future mishap. Not to mention we are supposed to be a “Brotherhood” so in essence it is under “Our Lid”. Enjoy your day and be safe.

  • Terry Boes

    I must agree with most of those posting on here that you CANNOT draw conclusions from a photo. For example, the firefighter standing on the porch may have crawled out and THEN stood up after he exited the building. Anyone who has enough experience to realize what it is really like in a fire like the one shown here would KNOW that in fact if that fire fighter had been standing inside that structure we would in fact be discussing a LODD. So if the point of this article is NOT to bash these firefighters who were experienced enought to A)be doing the right things not to be injured in the flashover and B)get out safely after a flashover which for the armchair QB’s above who have shown thier obvious lack of not only experience, but training and ethics, (jonwad-your name says alot about your character-sean, concerned-about what being a bigshot?-chief joe, anonymous-ie “coward”, roger, ladder jake) Lay off these guys. Reading the accounts tells as much or more than the photos – I would say they got out alive and put the fire out. Pretty good outcome from a situation that might have easily been worse. Thanks to these guys for being willing to share thier experience to help us all become better. What I feel I have learned from this- 1) stay orinted to your way out like these guys did, 2) realize every fire has the potential to be a disaster, even in a small house such as this 3)At fire things don’t go wrong, they continue to go wrong. If they weren’t already going wrong, we would still be back in the firehouse. Nice job fellas.

  • BR

    Some of these guys have entirely too much time on their hands. Great photos Dave and thanks.

  • Bill Hylton

    Looks like some volley with his head stuck in the fire to get some battle scars on his helmet to me??

    Again, VENT THE ROOF. too many heros trying to rush in…just have to be the first through the door

  • capt1202

    Thank the lord we didnt loose a brother and stop all the finger pointing!! Will, Connie was a great man and will be missed in the fire service for years to come! I’m gald you guys got out of a very dangerous situation that ANYONE could find themselves in if they are a “firefighter”.

  • Lt. Jones

    Hey Bill Hylton, shut your mouth, you won’t there and the roof was already sagging when they arrived!! They did what was best at the time pal!! And for the “again, vent the roof, its hard to vent the roof when it already vented”, so again shut your mouth!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Building was a Total Loss. Insurance carrier doesn’t care; so why should fire dept. Let it burn.

  • bob (retired FF)

    Property was well involved; a total loss. Insurance carrier doesn’t care. Why should we? Let it Burn.

  • bob (retired FF)

    Property was a total loss. Let it Burn to Ground. Insurance carrier doesn’t care; its insured.

  • Jay

    Vent the roof of that shack??? Really. I wouldint put my crew on top of that. Risk Vs. Gain says Nooooo.

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