I'd somehow gotten it into my mind that the room ahead was a small one, so I opened up the nozzle with the expectations that the flames would quickly be knocked down. Unknown to me, I was actually throwing my steam into an L shaped room that went all the way to the back of the house, and which was now engulfed in fire. I whipped the nozzle around, throwing a couple of hundreds of gallons of water a minute into the superheated atmosphere, and the fire laughed in my face.
"There's fire over to our left!" yelled the guy who was backing me up. Unknown to us, the fire over there had already burned through the wall, so we were seeing flames in the next room. But since the fire two inches from my face was going nowhere, I had troubles of my own.
After a minute or so -- it seemed a lot longer -- the steam conversion worked, and the fire died down. But there was an instant before that -- and this has never happened to me in my 29 years of firefighting -- where I thought to myself:
"What the hell am I doing here?"
By the time my air tank ran low we'd knocked down the fire visible from our position. I crawled out, dumped my air pack, looked up to see how we were doing, and saw flames roaring out of the roof right over where we'd been working. That's when the IC and I pulled everybody out.
I played Safety Officer for the rest of the fire. By the way, propane tanks are still trying to kill me -- later that morning I found a charred tank that someone had carried out of the same doorway and left outside.
How was your weekend?
A home north of Albion on Steinbarger Lake was destroyed by fire Friday morning.
No one was injured in the blaze, which broke out at 9288 N Steinbarger Lake Road just before 8 a.m. The one story wood frame home was a total loss, according to the Orange Township Fire Department.
The southwest corner of the building was engulfed in flames when fire trucks arrived, and the blaze quickly spread through the rest of the home. Firefighters attempted to cut a hole in the roof to vent superheated gasses and improve visibility, but a second roof had been built over the original one, making venting difficult and allowing flames to spread in the concealed space between the roofs. Firefighters trying to knock down the fire from inside were driven out when the roof began caving in, and the floor near the middle of the home also collapsed into the basement.
Firefighters later removed a charred propane tank, along with weapons and ammunition, from the still smoldering home, in addition to having to protect a larger propane tank placed nearby.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, and the State Fire Marshal's Office was called in to assist. As a result of that investigation and the job of stamping out the last of the fire's smoldering remnants, some Orange Township units remained at the scene until after 9 p.m. that night. During the incident Johnson Township firefighters assisted with a medical assist call nearby, while at 4 p.m. some Orange Township units had to break away to assist at a personal injury accident on Kelly Street in Rome City.
These were many of the same firefighters who were called out at 10:38 p.m. the previous night to a reported house fire on Northport Road. That turned out to be a controlled burn of a previously fire damaged house, which had not been reported to authorities.
Assisting Orange Township firefighters were a fire engine and water tanker responded from Albion, along with other trucks and manpower from the Johnson Township, Ligonier, and Kendallville Fire Departments. Fire crews from Churubusco, Noble Township, and Topeka were brought up on standby.
A Noble County EMS crew stood by on the scene as a precaution, while REMC linemen were brought in to cut power to the residence.