A blaze affecting two twin homes just three hours into 2013 kept a group of area firefighters busy. Photo supplied to the Yeadon Fire Company by Mike Boyle

ByL.JamesBiddle
Special to the Spirit

With 2013 a little more than three hours old, Yeadon and selected assisting fire companies began a night-long battle of a fire in twin, three-story homes in the unit block of Lincoln Ave.

The first medical/fire unit arriving on scene was a Mercy Fitzgerald medic unit. As Pete Bochanski arrived, he shared by radio his observation of an enveloping fire and a person stranded on a porch of the home.

As Yeadon Fire Chief Mike DiIenno arrived at the fully involved half of the twin structure, he said, “I was the third person there after the paramedics and there was fire coming out of every window and every door.” He added, “Despite a language difficulty, the occupant was encouraged to jump just before the porch collapsed.”

Bochanski caught the victim as he dropped 15 feet to the ground. The occupant was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with chest pain and smoke inhalation.

The two adult occupants of the attached structure were able to safely leave their home on their own.

The fire was initially fought in two stages with an exterior attack on one of the twins and an interior attack on the other, but in a short time DiIenno saw conditions worsening.

As a result, he ordered all firefighters to evacuate half of the twin structure. As the last of these crews was safely out of the structure, the roof began to show signs of collapse and total collapse soon followed the evacuation. That validated the order to move all crews out of the structure.

The combination of time of day, remnants from ground-covering snow, temperatures dropping to below freezing, and wind just a bit slower than the early morning’s gust of 20 miles per hour, necessitated active and relief crews.

In addition to Yeadon, firefighter crews were supplied by responders from East Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Clifton Heights, Darby Fire Co. #1, Sharon Hill, Glenolden, Holmes and Millbourne.

Crews were also drawn from Upper Darby’s Garrettford, Drexel Hill, Primos, Secane, Westbrook Park, and Cardington Stonehurst fire companies along with Collingdale Fire Co. #1 and the Leedom Fire Co.

Firefighter safety concerns fostered the dispatch of the Chester Township Fire Co. Canteen.  Throughout the three hours of intense activities, EMS units from both Mercy Fitzgerald and Delaware County Memorial Hospital were partners in firefighter safety.

The occupants evacuated from Lincoln Ave. were provided temporary aid by the American Red Cross. Other than the hospitalized resident of the neighboring house, the other occupants, his wife and three children, were staying at a relative’s house for the night.

The Yeadon borough fire marshal began immediately searching for sources of the origin of the fire and, as a routine practice, this process continues.

Following Yeadon’s first fire of the New Year, DiIenno lauded the teams of firefighters and the support services of medical attention and the Canteen’s warming coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks.

Because the anticipated length of time that would require Yeadon fire apparatus to be dedicated to this fire, apparatus and crews from Middletown Township’s Lima Fire Company provided cover protection for the borough.

Returning to the fire location in the daylight of New Year’s Day, DiIenno shared several thoughts, beginning with an observation: “The smoke detector that woke up the couple at (the first house) was still going off 12 hours later.” He continued, “Four or five years ago, I was stuck in a building. This feeling is what prompted me to evacuate the building. Even though I was outside the building at this fire, I didn’t want anyone to experience that same feeling.”

He added, “I think watching from the outside might be more difficult because there’s a feeling of helplessness and you can’t do anything about it.”

The decision to evacuate the interior firefighting crew was done with sufficient haste and some fire equipment was left inside because the building was too unstable to risk reentry.

This New Year’s Day fire marked DiIenno’s second anniversary as fire chief. He commented that the first fire of 2013 has produced a memory that will stick with him for a long time.

From time to time, when the first fire of a new year is an active event, firefighters will return to a once-familiar saying: “A big fire will usher in a year of active firefighting.”

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