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Busy night on the fire department last Wednesday

By Andrew Pollack on 08/03/2005 at 11:45 AM EDT

As promised (or threatened, depending on your point of view) here's the story from last Wednesday's big storm and fire.

To set things up a bit, it had been hot here for several days -- temperatures in the 90's ( 32+ Celsius) and humid. The weather report was predicting storms followed by cooler weather. You don't drop 20 degrees and 20% humidity all at once without some fun storms popping up and that's just what happened.

At around 1600 the NOAA radar was showing big storm cells headed our way, and at the first rumblings of thunder many of us made our way to central station to wait for calls. When the cells did come through, It was the best lightening storm I've ever seen in our area. We even had to close to the bay doors due to the rain, hail, and number of lightening strikes. I'm aware of no less than 7 strikes within a half mile of central station over a period of less than half an hour.

The first call was at the home of one of our members out on the west end. Our Engine 3 and Ladder 7 were dispatched to assist on the "Desk Box" (a second level response). Engine 3 was en route and I was about to take Ladder 7 when the call was stepped down. We held in quarters while Engine 3 continued to the west end. Soon though, we started getting more calls. A house down the road was hit and reported a TV set smoking. All of central was dispatched to that. I ended up with Engine 1 at a hydrant nearby. Before we could clear, another house hit all the way down on the foreside (the east end of town, near the water). The west end trucks were dispatched along with a neighboring town, then we headed over once we cleared from the first call. We arrived late enough to be at a second hydrant and were cleared almost immediately. As we headed back, two simultaneous calls went out -- one on the west side for a house hit and reporting smell of smoke and another for one of the school buildings. At this point, all the trucks are out of normal position. Since the house was occupied and the school building not, we were dispatched to the house on the west side even though it was much further. We ended up second due, behind Engine 5.

Engine 5 arrived and reported smoke in the building. The house was at the end of a long dead end side street near a turnaround. I pulled Engine 1 up to the turnaround, backed up to Engine 5, and we tied off the lead rope on our 5" supply line to Engine 5. The lead rope is tied about 15' up from the end of the line so there will be enough slack at the end to hook the hose. I then drove back to the head of the side street (a move called a reverse-lay) where we stopped in a location suitable for tankers to supply water then turn around quickly without blocking inbound apparatus with more water, manpower, and equipment. Our Engine 2 and Falmouth's tank 4 both dropped their dump tanks (fold out water ponds) and we began 'drafting' (pumping water) from these into our Engine 1 and up to the scene. From there, a series of tankers could dump water to these dump tanks and we could keep a continuous flow to the scene. Some hours later, all was taken care of. The fire was contained to the attic and although it will be costly, the home and most belongings were saved and the family is fine. We picked up and were sent to west station to wait out the next set of lightening then reload 1000' of 5" supply line and put the Engine back in service. Finally, we stopped for fuel and returned to central station. After some pizza, I was sent out one last time to baby-sit a tree on a power line until at around 2200 Central Maine Power had someone out to declare it safe until they got a crew out to take care of it. It was about 2300 when I got home.

What a great evening!

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