On Saturday, May 18th, while several firefighters were participating in the township’s Super Saturday event, an alarm was struck at 1:39 PM for a working house fire at 447 Egg Harbor Road.  Engine 1022 arrived at 1:45 PM and went into service with a hose line for an active fire inside.  The home had been unoccupied for the past 2 months.  During the initial fire attack, one firefighter fell through a large hole in the living room area of the dwelling, but was quickly grabbed and pulled out by another firefighter.  The firefighter was not injured, however this action caused firefighters to retreat and switch to an exterior defensive fire attack.  The department responded with 9 pieces of fire apparatus and 30 firefighters.  The fire was placed under control at 2:10 PM.  During the fire, Egg Harbor Road was shut down for approximately 2 hours.  There were no civilian or firefighter injuries and the department was assisted by the Washington Township Police Department and the Washington Township Ambulance Association.  All fire apparatus were clear of the scene by 4:00 PM.  The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Washington Township Fire Investigation Unit and the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office.

On Sunday, May 19th, at 5:16 PM the Washington Township Fire Department was dispatched to a working apartment fire at 684 Delsea Drive, next to the Citgo Gas Station.  The first fire units arrived at 5:20 PM to find a 2 ½ story older style apartment building with extensive fire visible from the front and left side.  By this time, all occupants from the 4 separate units had all but narrowly escaped.  A family of three with an infant, who lived on the second floor, were alerted to the fire by activated smoke detectors.  An attempt to escape through the hallway was blocked by smoke so they evacuated though their fire escape along the left side of the building.  Shortly after their escape, the entire left side of the building, including the fire escape, became consumed in fire.  Engine 1033 was the first arriving engine and went into service with a large caliber hose stream.  The incident commander struck a second alarm at 5:33 PM putting all of WTFDs resources into service and bringing cover fire apparatus from Deptford, Blackwood, Pitman, Glassboro, and Williamstown to protect the rest of the township.  At the height of the fire, the department had both of its ladder trucks in service along with 4 hand held hose streams.  Propane and Kerosene storage located next door at the gas station were considered exposures, but not seriously threatened.  The department deployed 11 pieces of fire apparatus with 50 firefighters.  The fire was placed under control at 6:50 PM but because of the difficulty in gaining access to the 3rd floor loft area, hot spots continued to be extinguished till approximately 9:20 PM.  Delsea Drive was completely shut down from East Holly Avenue to Hollydell Drive, and East Holly was shut down from Delsea Drive to Densten Drive till about 10:30 PM.  One civilian suffered a minor injury that was treated on the scene by Washington Township Ambulance Association and released.  One firefighter was taken to Kennedy Health Systems Washington Division and admitted for observation overnight.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Washington Township Fire Investigation Unit and the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Both the Egg Harbor Road fire and the Delsea Drive fire reflect on the intensity and the dangers faced by members of the fire department and the high importance of their training and education to enable them to combat these situations competently and professionally.  While the department prides itself on keeping a low injury rate, the inherent dangers associated with firefighting constantly place them in harms way.

The Delsea Drive fire reflects on how important it is to have operating smoke detectors on all levels of your home, the necessity to practice home fire drills, and the importance of making sure someone calls 9-1-1 immediately upon discovering a fire.  Check your smoke detectors regularly, if battery operated, change the batteries when you change your clock in the fall and spring.  Make sure all members of the household are familiar with at least two (2) ways out in case of fire.  Practice escaping with all family members from each different escape route and establish a safe meeting place to ensure everyone is accounted for before the fire department arrives.  Make sure someone calls 9-1-1.  Often times during more serious fires, there is a delay with someone making that first call to 9-1-1 to ensure help is on the way.  Fire will consume and more than double in size every minute it goes unchecked.  The speed and intensity in which an active fire grows is not understood by most civilians.  Attached to this release are 2 pictures taken just prior to the fire department’s arrival and a few minutes after the first few apparatus begin to go into service.

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