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UPDATED with radio traffic – Double mayday in Delaware: First hand account from injured firefighter after floor collapse at Brandywine Hundred house fire.

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About 16 hours after the floor of a home collapsed in Tioga County, New York, killing Owego Fire Department Captain Matthew Porcari and injuring Lt. Daniel Gavin, two other firefighters found themselves in a similar situation. This time it was in Brandywine Hundred, Delaware and fortunately the outcome was very different.

Talleyville Fire Company Career Firefighter/EMT Kyle Rice and Brandywine Hundred Fire Company Career Firefighter/EMT Kyle Sweetman are at home recovering from relatively minor injuries after falling from the first floor into the basement during a fire yesterday at a home on Weldin Road. The firefighters fell one after the other at two different locations in the house and both called maydays.

Kyle Rice responded to well wishers on his Facebook page with an account of his ordeal. He has given permission for us to reprint it here:

Thank you everyone for all the texts, phone calls, messages and posts today It means a lot. I have been asked to recall what happened about 100 times today and am sure that it will only increase more over the next few days so I would like to post it here and make it easier for everyone. I will probably re-post it tomorrow also at some point.

Today I experienced something that I have heard about… countless times but never really thought it would happen to me.  
Talleyville Fire Company Firefighter/EMT Kyle Rice. 
While operating at a working residential house fire I was on the first due rescue truck, preforming the primary search for anyone trapped in the house due to the fire and smoke. While preforming the search, the floor I was on suddenly collapsed beneath me. I fell approximately 10 feet flat on my face into the basement with all ( it at least felt like it) the debris and flooring falling on top of me. I had no idea that I had fallen that far, thinking I was just clumsy and fell over a small step or whatnot. I was facedown on the basement floor unable to move my legs due to debris on top of me, I was able to free my right leg but not my left and ended up pulling my foot out of my boot to free it. My SCBA (Breathing apparatus we wear into fires) was entrapped and I was forced to remove it while still breathing its air, free it and my self, then put it back on.
I called a mayday at some point that I can’t remember exactly when. I tried to move around the basement to find a way to orient myself to find a way out but due to the debris and fire around me I was very limited on what direction I could move in. I was able to find the basement stairs and started to make my way up them, sans left boot and my axe I lost, I got to the top of the steps fully expecting to make my way out only to find the floor the stairs led to had also collapsed in all directions I could see. I was running out of air at this point and called mayday again, I think, to inform them I needed to be removed asap as I was out of clean air. I laid flat on the steps and started to “suck floor” while trying to breach the wall next to me to get out with little progress. During this process I was only worried when I ran out of air, I KNEW that every person on that scene was doing everything they could to find and remove me, and the other fire fighter who had fallen through a different part of floor no where near me. I could hear Eric Haley “Ceaser” yelling from someplace. I knew with absolute certainty that he would let that house fall down on his head before he left ANYONE behind, and because of that I KNEW I was going to get out along with him and everyone working to find and get us out. They did find me, beating away at the wall, and were able to pull me over a couch and partially through the wall I was taking down to get me out. I was pulled out and taking to the hospital, I have 2nd degree burns to my ears along with 1st degree to my face and some sun burn ish minor stuff also. I know I am lucky and my injuries are more then an annoyance then anything else.
What I was able to do today, how I was able to react was a direct reflection on the better men that trained me to do exactly what I did, Career and Volunteer alike how to think, fight and survive in the worst possible conditions. Today I experienced something that I never thought would happen to me.. today my life was saved by others, brothers, who would have given theirs to help me keep mine as I would for any of them. Thank you to those that trained me, and thank you to those who trained with me for days exactly like this one.
Firefighter Rice says besides acknowledging Claymont Fire Company Chief Eric Haley, that he was brought to safety by three members of his department, Chief Tom Looney, Deputy Chief Jason Stiebel and Firefighter/EMT Bobby Lynch (who is a career firefighter at Talleyville with Kyle Rice).

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Comments - Add Yours

  • de
  • CoffeeTime

    Excellent recount of an experience no one wants to have. Glad you are safe.

    This is an excellent testimony to the benefits of training, and more specifically, self extrication training.

    We all do a lot of traning and often times wonder why we have to know the subject matter. Here is an excellent example of a tool you hope you don’t have to use but its nice to have.

    Train, practice, train, practice, and train some more.

    Congrats on a great outcome.

  • ed roche sr

    If they used their pike poles and other tools to test the floor by hit the floor hard instead of a love tap they would not be falling through floord or roofs.

    • Crowbar

      Thanks ed, good thing you told us that. Now nobody will ever fall through a floor or roof ever again.

  • Fire21

    Glad they are safe and no-one else was hurt.

  • Cappy

    I can only hope a mayday incident with our crews could go as well as this one. Much can be learned from this by all. Glad the brothers kept this extreme close call from being a lodd. Get well soon guys… you lived to fight another day.

  • Brian Haggerty

    Geez Ed, the poor guy didn’t know he was walking over a well involved basement fire. Give the guy a break here. I’m sure he didn’t realize the floor was going. By his own accounts he thought he tripped and was laying on the first floor. He didn’t even realize the floor gave out and he was in the basement. Yes, testing the floor over a fire with your tools is vital. You are correct. Giving it a good test not being gentle is correct. I don’t think in this case he knew he was over a serious fire.

  • Steve Hurlock

    Thanks Ed Roche Sr. I am so much more educated now that you have told everyone to sound the floor before walking on it. For crying out loud man, brothers could have lost their lives in this incident. Now is not the time for the dumbass comments. Maybe Firefighter Rice and Firefighter Sweetman will now be better informed since you wasted your time posting something that ludicrous. Crowbar you post is on point!

    I think this is an excellent account from the perspective of the firefighter involved and would only hope that we all take what he has shared and learn something instead of criticizing. My helmets off to you guys. That’s a scary situation for anyone to be in. Just hearing the Mayday sent chills through me. I hope you guys have a speedy recovery.

  • Kyle R

    Thank you all for the kind comments, This was a learning experience that I will never, ever, forget. And wish to happen to no one. Ed is correct, sounding the floor hard and often is extremely important in all fires just as it was in this one. I can assure you that it was done often, I found the 2nd floor steps were burned out by trying to sound them way before the floor fell out from under me. I am no structural engineer but I have stayed at a holiday inn express in my life and my best guess would be the entire floor supports gave way since the entire floor across the rear “C” side of the house appeared to have fallen and not just a hole in the floor. It was a bad situation that thankfully didn’t have a even worse outcome.

  • FF E3 B shift

    Ed Roche- Check out the UL studies on modern construction. You learn that sounding the floor isn’t always a full proof method.

  • slackjawedyokel

    Like E3B said -we are seeing whole sections fall as a unit as opposed to a hole being burned into a 2×10 joist with a 3/4 plus 3/4 floor. A good 360 is more important than ever.

  • Really

    An amazing story with a great outcome. I cannot say enough about the good fortune on this event. The Radio traffic was enough to make your skin crawl. Hats off to all those involved in the rescue. Delaware has had a few close calls in the past 3 weeks, all of which had a good outcome. I hope the streak of close calls ends and the being lucky part carries on.