On Friday December 2, 2011 at 1537 hours, the Easton Fire Department received master box alarm #157 from the Easton Housing Authority Complex on Elise Circle. Per the Fire Department policy, apparatus and personnel responded to the alarm from all three (3) stations; including; Engine 5 from Station 1, Engine #4 from Station 2, and Engine #2 from Station 3. The staffing as usual for the day was seven (7) firefighters on duty with one assign to dispatch on the desk. The department staffing is such that only two (2) firefighters respond on each of the engines.
The day was clear and the temperature was in the mid 40’s. The alarm was received from the Town Housing complex which is a senior housing complex. The complex consists of ten, 2- story, 8 unit apartment buildings, built of wood construction. The units do not have sprinkler systems and have a fire alarm systems tied to the fire department master box. The complex is a facility that the department responds to on many occasions through-out the year for various type calls including, food on the stove, burnt food in the toaster, and other false alarms. This day would not be the typical call to the Housing complex.
On arrival at Elise Circle, Engine #5 with its crew, Captain Walsh and Firefighter/Medic Rich Salve found alarms sounding from building #6, which is a 2-story 8-unit apartment building, with no indication of smoke or fire. Most of the residents of the building had gathered outside. The residents stated to Captain Walsh that the occupant of unit #63 (Mr. Jeffrey Willis) was seen earlier in the day and they were certain that he was still inside the apartment. At this time smoke was becoming visible from the small kitchen window of unit #63.
Captain Walsh immediately called for a working fire assignment including a mutual aid ambulance, and gave assignments to the incoming engine companies. Captain Walsh and FF Salve in full protective clothing and SCBA prepared to enter the unit with a charged 1 ¾” attack line, thermal imaging camera, and their entry tools. As they opened the door to the unit, they were met with extremely thick black smoke and high heat. The smoke had banked down to the level of the floor making visibility impossible. With Captain Walsh on the nozzle of the charged line and FF Salve backing him up with the thermal imaging camera, they entered the apartment crawling low in the smoke.
Captain Walsh went to the right towards the orange glow as they both moved the line forward. They were in the unit for a short time when Captain Walsh began to hit the fire with the attack line and darkening down the fire that was in the living room. FF Salve who was backing up Captain Walsh on the line was scanning the room with the thermal imaging camera. While scanning the room an image of a person lying on the floor came in view. FF Salve immediately yelled to Captain Walsh that he had found a body and passed the camera to locate the victim. The body was ahead of both FF's, and Captain Walsh was in the most advantageous position to get to the victim. Captain Walsh moved toward the victim through the room and found him face down, he grabbed him under his arms and began to move him (Mr. Willis) out of the unit, FF Salve assisted by grabbing his legs. They had the victim outside the building in a matter of minutes from the time they entered the unit and they were met on the front lawn by the FF's from Engines 4 and 2.
Lt. Nicholson, FF/Medics Houth, Stone, and Davey began medical care on the victim, and care was continued by Medics Houth and Stone. Lt. Nicholson and FF Davey assisted with further fire suppression operations. Crews continued with a secondary search of the apartment to determine there were no other victims inside. The remainder of the fire was brought under control very quickly and confined to one apartment.
The resident was treated at the scene and transferred to the West Bridgewater Fire Department Ambulance and was transported to the Good Samaritan Hospital where he was evaluated and later transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital.
If not due to the quick and decisive actions of Captain Walsh, and FF Salve, Mr. Willis the occupant of unit #63 would not have survived. Under extremely dangerous conditions of high heat and zero visibility without protection of a backup crew at the time performed heroically. Without question, the actions of these Firefighters who began an immediate entry, search and knockdown of the fire, and locating the victim in very short time frame saved his life.