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Fireground audio: Mayday in Fairfax County, Virginia. Firefighter had trouble getting out of basement in Vienna house fire.

Both AlertPage and FirefighterDispatch posted this audio from a two-alarm fire Sunday evening handled by the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department at 206 Oak Street in Vienna, Virginia. A firefighter apparently became separated from her crew in the burning basement of the home and had difficulty finding a means of egress. A mayday was called and it sounds like the RIT quickly found her. The firefighter was uninjured.

The only article I have seen on the fire is from Vienna Patch and I am not sure what to make of some of what is written. The article calls it an electical fire caused by a gas leak in the basement. It also has this about the mayday:

When units first responded, however, dispatchers reported a man down,  repeating “mayday” three times. (Battalion Chief Greg) Bunch said a female firefighter got disoriented by the smell of the gas and separated from the group as they entered into the basement; she evacuated unharmed.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    OMG, that is embarrasing. A little piss ant house fire and a “firefighter” acts like that. Might be time for said “firefighter” to consider another line of work. Unbelievable!

    • Anonymous

      You’re a scumbag……Nuff said!

    • Paul

      You should be embarrased to post a reply like this. I hope you don’t work for Fairfax because I would hate to have someone with your attitude on a working fire, it would endager the whole crew.


    Valor awards are forthcoming..

  • Jeff Cullen

    NEVER is a mayday “embarrasing” Aononymous…you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Anonymous

    Extremely sad. The amount of training that departments conduct preparing for “mayday” events and a firefighter(?) acts like this? Her company officer should be proud, he obviously doesn’t work much with his crew. Glad everyone is ok, but some have a lot to learn.

  • Anonymous

    Trust me on this Mr. Cullen, this is embarrasing.


    Instead of a Mayday, you could call on the radio without sounding hysterical and say your having difficulty getting out of the basement, could someone light the basement door on fire so i know which direction to head towards..

    • Paul

      Hookman, since you were obviously not there let me enlighten you. The Firefighter tried to do just that but was stepped on by other radio traffic, only after did they call a MAYDAY. It is always easy to critique afterwards and the biggest wimps I know have the most swagger around the firehouse.

    • proudfemaleFF

      Hookman-listen again. She reports “priority traffic” repeatedly. That is followed by, ” I can’t find the GD stairs.” I keep hearing about how “hysterical” she sounds-sorry. Not hearing hysteria, just someone who is probably working hard to get reoriented. Between Anonymous and Hookman-people like you might be the reason some firefighters don’t ask for help until it’s too late and then they’re a body recovery. How about saying something like-”Glad she’s ok. Good thing she called for help before it was too late. Great job RIT team.” THAT would be constructive….

  • Anonymous

    She is going to get a ton of grief, but she did the right thing. She was “lost” and called a mayday(sort of) like she was supposed to. Sounded like she got disoriented and anxiety took over. This is a great learning opportunity and I hope people don’t dismiss what happened because she is a female.

  • Josh

    She did the right thing — if you’re lost or disoriented, you call a MAYDAY. Period. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Most male firefighters are just too full of themselves to call a Mayday early, before it is too late. She did the right thing, but since she is female, she’s going to catch hell for it.

    • proudfemaleFF

      Well said. Glad to hear of a brother who supports a sister…doesn’t happen often enough, sadly.

  • Anonymous

    When calling a “Mayday,” Who you are, what the problem is, and what you need. Sounds like she needs some basic Mayday training. Everyone else, great job.

  • RESCUE 1

    I think she did the right thing. She got lost and she needed help. Lessson here, Train, train, train, practice your MAYDAY SOPS.
    Also, I want to point out that the dispatcher should have stopped all radio traffic,and move the fire attack ops to another channel, leaving the “mayday” on the original channel.

  • dc fireMAN

    hmmmm, enough said

  • Anonymous

    Right course of action? Yes. Text book? By no means. Point made that she needed help? Yes, and isn’t that the real reason for calling a MAYDAY? She got excited after her officer ran over her to get out of the house. She got even more excited when she heard her officer on the radio report that him and his crew were out of the house while she was alone in the basement. So, there are multiple lessons to be learned here. Lets hope that all involved take the time to review this incident and try to prevent this type of event from occurring in the future.

  • FFXfireman

    Although her mayday may not have been textbook, the *minimum* vital information was conveyed (in the basement, cannot find steps)or known (BC established it was Engine 402′s driver). From those who were there, the firefighter who called the mayday was trampled by somebody as they were beating a hasty retreat and pushed into another room without a reference point out. Heck, as she is trying to sound the mayday, her officer radioed that he had evacuated everybody.

    Known fire with a gas leak, smoky basement, you’ve just been knocked around and can’t immediately find your way out and your officer doesn’t even know you’re missing? I believe she did the right thing in dropping the mayday and getting the cavalry enroute.

    We have all been in situations where the radio traffic doesn’t convey actual happenings. I think this is yet another prime example.

    • proudfemaleFF

      Wow-that sheds some light on things, FFXfireman. If what you’re saying is true, that she was “trampled…as they were beating a hasty retreat” then some of these folks can stop the female-bashing. This is a valuable lesson in many ways. Thanks for sharing your info-maybe some knuckle draggers will learn alongside many of us “sandwich makers”…

  • dcfireman

    I think the problem is as a Fire service in general we are held accountable for our actions in every area(EMS, appearence, conduct on/off the job, driving, response times,etc,etc,etc) But there is no accountability on the fireground! Mess up, coward out, no job knowledge/preparedness, no radio discipline, zero crew integrity, no situational awareness, and its all swept under the rug. People that can’t run a line or throw a ladder are all over the place, but we are diverse. God must love Fireman because it is amazing we aren’t getting killed daily for our incompetance. I understand screwing up on an EMS call might get you fired, but screwing up on a fire might get you and everyone else killed.
    I don’t know this firefighter or how bad conditions were but she showed all of us what not to do. There will be times where you will turned around, separated, etc, but you need to stay calm, get your bearings and correct the situation. if you are unable to do so and conditions are bad enough, sound the MayDay. If she was really in trouble she did nothing to help herself, stay calm, clearly relay the important info so the brothers can help you. Its impotant to practice this because most backstep firemen don’t talk on the radio much. Steping on a mayday is unacceptable and it seemed the IC needed to control the radio traffic better but we wern’t there and don’t know all the details either. it did seem like RIT was deployed quickly and got her out of there fast. Hopefully everyone learns from this and some of us wake up and concentrate on our performance on the fireground and if you are the weak link fix it, if you can’t cut it get out!

  • Gil

    I thought a Mayday was a Russin holliday.

  • oldhead


  • Anonymous

    Can I ask why the 1st due wagon driver was in the building????

    I’m not familiar with that S.O.P. . . . . .

    • Anonymous

      She was giving a backup driver some wheel time.

  • Myles Long
  • Anonymous

    Why was the first due driver even in the basement?!

  • DC CAPT.


  • SOF

    dcfireman, well said. You’re one of the few of your department who recognize just how precarious your fireground performance is.

    As for the firefighter who called the mayday, 1) anyone who is lost or disoriented should call a mayday as soon as they realize they are lost or disoriented, she did a good job here. 2) the officer of 402 should be immediately and summarily demoted. He has proved his incompetence by 1) failing to maintain crew integrity 2) lying about his accountability PAR check 3) bailing out of the building with out taking care of his crew 4) failing to train his crew adequately on how to call a mayday.

  • Dcfireman

    I was not talking about DC specifically but in fire service in general. Relatively speaking I feel for the most part DC’s performance day in and day out is exceptional. But it is under attack make no mistake about it by cost cutting politicians, vest wearing textbook pansies, bleeding heart liberals who think everyone can be a fireman, snake oil salesman like brunicini, and cowards who hide behind the banner of safety. Oh and trolls like you who anonymously attack depts via the Internet to feel better about their own incompetence. SOF, until you say where you are coming from I will continue to have no respect for you or your opinions

  • Anonymous

    Common now. The fact of the matter is 1.) The officer was detailed in that day, thus, he had no hand in this woman’s training. Fairfax does an excellent job of moving resources around on a whim, resulting in a complete lack of crew integrity! 2.) She was correct in calling a MAYDAY when she did. Read your SOP’s and understand why and when we should use it! Now, taking pride in knowing your job is another story. We are paid to stay calm and perform under pressure. A simple mayday procedure is and should of been instilled in your minds from day 1 of recruit school. I truly question the hiring practices of these departments.


    Hopefully there was a kitchen and sandwich making materials in the basement, because thats all she should have been down there for. OH and if there was a washing machine…….

  • SOF

    Well, DCfireman, I guess it’s a good thing that I couldn’t care less whether or not you have respect for me. The fact that this event occurred in Fairfax and not in DC is random. The fact that this was a woman and not a man is random. There is absolutely nothing about being a male, or about being white, that makes you a better firefighter than someone who is not male, or not white.

    It is very true that failing to hold people accountable for fireground performance is deplorable. It’s also very true that the very union you pay membership to has been part and party to separating fireground performance from continued employment and advancement. As with the schools, the unions hate the idea of being held accountable for performance. It’s up to you whether you support the ‘bleeding heart liberals’ of your union, or the ‘true patriots ‘ who want to gut the working man.

    However, you will soon find out, that having a few members of the crew who look like members of the public you serve, is an advantage when it comes to gaining financial support from the public you serve.

    Anyhow, if you want to see how a fire department would look like in a conservative stronghold, just look at Utah (PPV), Wyoming, or Mississippi, none of which, as far as I know, are bastions of great firefighting.

  • Dcfireman

    I said nothiing as I relates to race or gender. I do believe in unions and local 36 has always been on the forefront of safety and accountability. Once again you speak to things you have a warped opinion on but no real knowledge of. Funny how last month you were preaching how dc should convert to the ppv Utah way and now you bash them. You don’t have an ounce of credibility when you type on here. I really don’t care about what Utah or Wyoming do I don’t work there and you should do the same. Unions are not the problem in this country mind your own business an go away

  • SOF

    Dcfireman, you complained about diversity.

    Utah departments are fine. I just don’t think you’d really like what a conservative city’s FD would look like. You probably would prefer the FDs from liberal cities like DC, Boston, San Fransisco, or NYC.

    If Local 36 is up for it, I’m sure that the city would love to start a pay-for-performance program with the FD. That way you could get rid of done of the deadwood, and reward those who do their job well.

  • Anonymous

    The important thing is that she went home. I’m glad she’s safe.

  • Dcfireman

    I have no problems with other race, creeds or colors. I was complaining about hired unqualified people for the sake of being diverse

  • Bill

    Amen. I think the New Haven 20 case proved that point. It’s interesting, there have been all kinds of studies on the importance of diversity, but to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been one on the cost of hiring a certain number “minorities” because it is a reflection of the community it serves. Without turning this into a racial or gender issue, discrimination is discrimination, period. The highest qualified people should be hired and or promoted, regardless of gender, religious belief, ethnicity, etc. What makes for the most qualified person? I guess that is up to the individual jurisdiction, but not without consequence. When it comes to live safety, hiring practices should not be based on quotas.

  • The Jester

    No one mentioned the fact that she was on the end of the hoseline when she panics. And I do believe that if she pressed the little orange button on the radio, then keyed the mic, it would give her transmission priority and not let other transmissions step on her ‘priority traffic God dammit’. The rest of the crew left when they realized that natural gas was now spewing from the gas meter/pipe once the fire was put out.

    It is a hiring issue, but once the wrong people are hired, it becomes a TRAINING ISSUE. Plus, this is what happens when you take a 3 year person who isn’t an experienced firefighter and promote them. You should become good at your first ‘job’ before you even try to move on to your second ‘job’. But Fairfax doesn’t care about that. And, btw, I agree with Dcfireman whole-heartedly…

  • SOF

    Do Amy of the departments on the region use quotas? I was under the impression they all used an objective written rating exam coupled with pass/fail CPAT, medical, and psych exams.

    That being said, I can tell you that a department that looks more like the community it serves will be easier to defend against budget cuts than a department that is overwhelmingly white and male, especially if they are from out of state.

  • Bill

    “I was under the impression they all used an objective written rating exam coupled with pass/fail CPAT, medical, and psych exams.” I am not going to stoop to your level and play this silly game. The evidence is out there, we will have to agree to disagree. Anyone who knows the difference is well aware of the typical hiring and promoting practices. You would be naive to think that certain fire departments aren’t required by law to use quotas as a result wrongful hiring / promoting processes in the past. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But hey, that is just my opinion (oh yeah, and the Supreme Court’s!)

  • SOF

    Well, until you stoop to my level, and use citations to back up your assertstions, you are just a whiny bigot.

    I am aware that Boston has been ordered to rectify past hiring practices with quotas. I am not aware of any National Capital Region departments that must do the same. I am almost positive that the Fairfax hiring procedure is race and gender blind. I welcome any published information to the contrary.

  • Mikey

    They may be race and gender blind but when you hire a paramedic and expect them to be a firefighter…. you get what you get

  • Whiny Bigot

    SOF, Sorry I made you cry. I’ll back off and we’ll pretend your right about everything you post. Would it make you feel better to get the last word in? How ’bout a hug?

    Have the hiring processes been race and gender blind in the past? You do the homework, if you’re interested, I’ve already done mine. The facts are out there, I don’t need to prove anything that hasn’t been proven already. You bore me.

  • DC Truckie

    I’m not going to comment on the who, what, and why of what happened and diversity in the firehouse. That’s been beat to death on this thread. As a DC fireman, I just want to comment on how impressed I was with the radio operator dispatching the initial run. It was so refreshing to hear a dispatcher that could put out a run with such a clear, easy to understand voice. I couldn’t believe it! She used proper diction, tone, and most importantly, spoke English! I actually understood EVERY word! I have done some research, and listened to dispatchers from the surrounding counties, and found the same results. Dispatchers speaking in normal English, with a professional tone. WOW! Then I went to work and listened to our DC dispatchers and threw up in my mouth. :(

  • DC Truckie

    WOW! The Politically Correct Police are on Statter911? Seriously? Leave a comment about how we need a diction test for DC dispatchers like other departments do and you won’t post? And you wonder why our units are sent to the wrong addresses and get poor/distorted information that has cost lives in the recent past? Shame on you, Statter911. You obviously can’t see the forest for the trees, or just choose not to.

    I’m not going to comment on the who, what, and why of what happened and diversity in the firehouse. That’s been beat to death on this thread. As a DC fireman, I just want to comment on how impressed I was with the radio operator dispatching the initial run. It was so refreshing to hear a dispatcher that could put out a run with such a clear, easy to understand voice. I couldn’t believe it! She used proper diction, tone, and most importantly, spoke English! I actually understood EVERY word! I have done some research, and listened to dispatchers from the surrounding counties, and found the same results. Dispatchers speaking in normal English, with a professional tone. WOW! Then I went to work and listened to our DC dispatchers and threw up in my mouth.

    • dave statter

      DC Truckie, what comment are you talking about? I can assure you that would not be a reason for killing the comment. If it is the one you sent at 11:00 AM it is now posted. All comments have to be approved. I am out of town and was not sitting by the computer just waiting for your comment to arrive (though I am often in front of the screen and often do approve comments right away). If it was some earlier comment, it was likely rejected for another reason. Provide me specifics and I will tell you why.

      Statter, AKA the shameful Politically Correct Police

      • DC Truckie

        Dave, my apologies.  I jumped the gun when I didn't see the original comment.  I'm used to some of the unnecessary censorship from another site that we're both familiar with :)  And although you admit to not sitting by the computer waiting for my comment arrive, you're still okay in my book.  Thanks for a fair and open forum. 

        • dave statter

          No problem. There are some that don’t get through. Usually for language. Sometimes for being reporters instead of providing comments. There are plenty of borderline ones I wrestle with and sometimes I am not as consitent as I think I am. Thanks for the nice words. I will try to live up to them, but I know I will often fail.