Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Fatal Mistake

 Rolling Green Apartments: Side A of the building (photo: Steven O'Toole)

Fire is a most formidable foe.  Because it doesn't feel anything except the urge to feed.  And it doesn't care about you, your friends or loved ones, or what your future plans are.

The State Fire Marshal's investigation report of the January 21, 2013 Rolling Green Apartments fire, issued over a year after the disaster, could not establish a cause for the fatal inferno.

Rolling Green Apartment 202 Side C of the building
AFD report by initial on scene commander

Investigators are certain, however,  the fire started in Jake Hoffman's bedroom, and that he was initially dragged unconscious out of his burning room by his best friend.  Hoffman awoke however, and sprinted back into harms way saying, "Fuck this, I'm putting the fire out."

(Editors Note:  Bold black overlay is state officials redaction, white out is mine)

By then the beast was fully formed, a raging inferno well beyond the taming capabilities of an untrained amateur.  Especially one with reflexes and judgement dulled by too much alcohol.

Firefighters were driven from the apartment by a partial roof collapse and had to back their way down the same stairs Hoffman's roommate had originally used to drag him to safety.   They found Jake Hoffman a few hours later under a pile of debris, in the bathroom.




Anonymous said...

I wonder if the case can be made that teaching people to decide not to go back into a burning building would be more effective than merely having rules against it.

Rules only work when you have the ability to enforce them -- where the realistic fear of punishment is enough to coerce compliance.

Decision making skills presume both free will and self-interest -- you decide to stay out because you don't want to die. You rationally look at the situation and you decide that it isn't in your best interest to do this. Authority is irrelevant, YOU are the authority.

It's easier to take the "because I say so" approach -- but that's not going to work when you aren't there. If you have the courage to accept the fact that your authority does have limits, that you can't force them to do what you want them to do, you can then teach them how to make the decision and if your rule is legitimate then they most likely will decide along those lines anyway.

Larry Kelley said...

Not so sure there are any specific "rules" against going back into a burning building.

Just as there are not specific rules about not drinking motor oil.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the poor kid was still drunk. I'm so sorry the roomie had to go through all of this. It will stay with him forever.

Nina Koch said...

It's such a sad story for all involved, and as you say 4:59, very traumatic for the roommate. The firefighters must feel devastated when they realize there's been loss of life.

I wish the kids could find a way to have fun without getting so drunk. I don't know how we can teach that to them.

Dr. Ed said...

The firefighters must feel devastated when they realize there's been loss of life.

The way I always looked at it was that I was giving someone a better chance at not dying, I suspect they do too.

Nina, don't put it on the firefighters the way you are -- they didn't start the fire and they didn't put him back in there -- it's not them failing but them not being successful in their valiant attempts.

This is not a minor point Nina -- they responded to someone who had NO chance of survival and gave him a statistically better one.

According to the report, they were in there until the building was essentially collapsing around them. That was all they could do.

It wasn't that they failed but that they did everything they possibly could and that it wasn't enough. They didn't fail.

The first death I saw was when CPR didn't work -- we had done absolutely everything right. Everything else was right as well -- inside of 10 minutes an airplane was landing with a doctor and his toys aboard -- absolute best-case all-around and the person still died.

The point the doctor made to me was that even though you do everything right, sometimes people still die. The next time the victim might not die, but that's only if you are able to go the next time, if you don't let this bother you so much you can't go the next time. And on the ocean, you don't always even find a body -- you never really know what happened, but you go the next time.

Call me cold hearted (or worse), what he told a then-teenager is something that has been my attitude ever since. I can't permit this to bother me because I need to be able to go and help the next person, whom I will be able to help.

Anonymous said...

Don't feed the troll!!