Firefighters Recall Life-threatening Experience

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Joel Shirn, Jeremy Vogt, and Kevin Hurne find themselves replaying the moments that led up to a life-threatening experience they now share.

"It was the most dead silent quiet, probably how long was it? 20 seconds? The only thing that you could hear was the evacuation tone outside and the scuffle of the other three guys crawling through the door. There was no panic, there was no screaming, it was, we know what we have to do and get out," said Shirn.

"We would have burned alive even with all of our protective gear. Your gear will fail at a certain point," said Hurne.

Last week, Williamsport Bureau of Fire's Platoon B was called to a fire on 3rd Avenue in the city. Four firefighters made their way into the home to douse flames.

"Within a few seconds, conditions went from just a normal standard fire to something is the matter. Something is wrong," said Hurne.

Two windows in the back of the home gave out. The first floor began to heat up and fill with smoke.

With 30 mile an hour winds blowing through the house, the group knew they had to get out.

By that time, the smoke was so thick some of the firefighters didn't realize they were outside of the house. One of the firefighters ended up jumping over a porch railing thinking it was a window.

Moments after all four of the men escaped, nearly all at once everything on the first floor burst into flames.

The intense experience is called a flashover.

"The survivability rate of a flashover is very minimal even for a firefighter. We're fortunate. We're fortunate that the interior crew knew what was going on and backed out at the right time," said Hurne.

Williamsport Bureau of Fire now hopes to use this close call as a learning experience for its department and others across the country.

"Especially want to make sure our firefighters have the appropriate level of training so that when they get in a bad situation they can recognize it and react to it so we have a good outcome," said Assistant Chief Mark Killian.

"Thank the Lord above that we are here today. Because we have the fire training, because of working together as a team we're here today," said Hurne.

Some of the firefighters did suffer first and second-degree burns on their ears and hands. To them, it's a minor inconvenience when they think about what could have happened.

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