SCBAs Enable Rescue of Disabled Woman

City of Biwabik Fire Department

BIWABIK, MN -- On February 3, 2006, the Biwabik Fire Department was called to the scene of an apartment fire and told that there were people trapped in the building. The apartment on fire was on the second floor of a 16-unit complex.

First on the scene were members of law enforcement who attempted to access the building and reach the apartment where residents were reported to be trapped, but they were unable to continue their search due to heavy smoke and had to retreat. The Biwabik Fire Department's first unit and initial attack team entered the burning apartment, worked to extinguish the fire, and searched for trapped victims. As they fought the fire and searched for victims, they received word that the occupants of that apartment had evacuated already.

"This incident makes it clear that these awards have enhanced the safety of firefighters and the public," said Chief Dan Berg.

While the initial attack team was combating the fire, a second Biwabik Fire Department team entered the building to search for additional victims who might be trapped by the heavy smoke. A call was received indicating that a developmentally disabled woman was trapped in another apartment near the fire. The second team of firefighters guided the woman out of danger, giving her instructions and helping her to crawl with them out of the apartment and building. The victim was transported to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire was contained to one apartment unit, and that apartment was a total loss. But because of the firefighters' rapid and effective response, the fire was prevented from spreading to the rest of the building.

All of the items funded by the AFG-attack vehicle, personal protective equipment, and SCBAs-were in the firefighters' possession and ready to go when the time came to fight this potentially life-threatening fire. If the Department's initial attack team had not had the gear and resources needed to aggressively fight the fire and contain it to one apartment, the Department's rescue team would not have been able to gain internal access to the apartment of the one person trapped in the building. Because the initial attack team succeeded in containing the fire, rescuers were able to evacuate the person who was trapped. The firefighters believe that if the fire had advanced beyond the one apartment, the victim would have been unable to escape.

"This incident shows the positive effect that the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program has had on the public in our State," said Department Chief Dan Berg. "The successful and positive outcome of this fire incident can be largely attributed to the acquisition of this vital lifesaving equipment."

The Department could not have afforded to purchase this equipment on its own, Berg said.

"This incident makes it clear that these awards have enhanced the safety of firefighters and the public," he added.

The City of Biwabik Fire Department has 22 volunteer members and protects a population of 954 in rural northeastern Minnesota. The Department has received three Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) since 2001. These grants have funded new personal protective equipment (pants, coats, boots, and helmets, in 2001), new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, in 2005), and a new fast attack CAFS vehicle (2003). The Department does not receive many calls, but its members are equipped and prepared to respond when an emergency happens.

What they bought:

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Compressed air foam system (CAFS) fast attack vehicle
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus
Last updated October 27, 2020