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MI firefighter alone inside house fire is burned. Incident brings up questions about Benton Harbor’s public safety officer model.

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Benton Harbor, Michigan Lt. Doug Bell is in fair condition after being burned inside a house fire at 1034 Jennings Avenue early Thursday morning. According to news reports, Lt. Bell was the only firefighter on duty in the station when the call came in and was alone in the house when he was injured. In July of last year Benton Harbor began using a public safety officer model where police officers are trained to respond to fires bringing a reduction in the number of full-time firefighters. One of the public safety officers who helped rescue Lt. Bell went to the hospital due to smoke inhalation.

Below is a video of the Benton Harbor Fire Department we ran last year before implementation of the public safety officer model.

John Matuszak, Herald Palladium:

Three Benton Harbor public safety officers were at the scene with Bell when he entered the house, Lange said.

Bell entered the burning house alone, (Public Safety Director Roger) Lange said. Standard procedure nationally is to have two firefighters inside a burning structure, with two outside.

A lone firefighter can enter a building if there is reason to believe someone is inside, which is what Bell might have done, Lange said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lange did not yet know if one of the public safety officers was on the way into the house behind Bell when Bell was injured, and said that this part of the incident was under investigation.

Above is a video posted in April of last year before the public safety officer model was introduced.

Meghan Schiller, WBND-TV:

Lieutenant Doug Bell responded to the fire on Jennings Avenue by himself.

He got trapped inside the burning home around 1 a.m. and was rescued thanks to the daring efforts of his fellow officers.

He was transported to the Bronson Hospital Burn Unit in Kalamazoo for severe burns to his hands, fingers, back, ears, forehead and neck.

The Director of Public Safety, Roger Lange, says even if there were twenty firefighters on duty at all times, there would still be incidents like this one. 

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