Firefighter Close Calls commentary on Lancaster’s fatal fire


Chief Billy Goldfeder, EFO, a firefighter since 1973, serves as Deputy Fire Chief of the Loveland-Symmes FD in S.W. Ohio. LSFD is an ISO Class 2, full service ALS department providing a full range of traditional and non-traditional emergency & community services. A Chief Officer since 1982, he has served as a Fire Chief in Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Chief Goldfeder also served as a Public Protection representative covering southern New York, for I.S.O. as well as a Company Officer, starting with the Manhasset-Lakeville F.D., in Long Island, N.Y.

His comments at “” detail the February 2013 Lancaster Fire:


This report was developed (and issued yesterday) after the City of Lancaster (PA) contracted with Jim Smith and Bill Shouldis, two retired, very well respected Deputy Fire Chiefs from Philly – to conduct an independent safety investigation of the February fatal dwelling fire operations.

The Lieutenant was injured after he and his FF entered the burning row home at 226 E. Madison St. attempting to save 2 civilians who were trapped inside. Lieutenant Andre Kelley, leading search and rescue efforts, became trapped in heavy fire conditions. Two other Firefighters, FF Tom Bender, who was forced out of a 2nd floor window, but then lead companies to his officer, sustained first- and second-degree burns, and FF Craig Robertson broke a vertebra. Lieutenant Kelley returned home in mid May following that February 18 fire that killed a child and woman. He was flown to Crozer-Chester Medical Center for treatment of critical burns-to 40% of his body.


(Editorial Comment) The Lancaster City FD has experienced significant cuts and related problems in recent times…and perhaps if those issues didn’t exist, or were minimized, these firefighters would have had minimally adequate staffing and resources to accomplish many of the critical tasks identified as problems/issues in the report. This is another example of a city making cuts without genuinely assessing the actual community fire response needs – and the impacts those cuts will have when a fire, such as this, is reported. A fire like this is not rare in the City of Lancaster, this is a typical fire for them. Simply put, no fire department can respond to a fire, such as this, with less than the predictable and calculable needed staffing and leadership- and expect a positive outcome for the residents-or the members.* *

Amongst the issues identified in the report are:

-Apparatus placement.
-Lack of a complete size-up including a “360”
-Lack of risk assessment.
-Lack of an Incident Action Plan.
-Failure to quickly establish water from both the hydrant as well as the hand line.
-Operating on the floor above a fire without a charged hose-line.
-Not controlling the first floor fire before attempting to perform rescues on the second floor.
-Delay in stretching a backup 1 3/4-inch hose-line.
-Ventilation was not coordinated with fire attack.
-Training Issues.
HERE IS THE REPORT:  (Including the Fire Chiefs response to the report)


**So what’s the solution? Among many, when a department is cut so that all of their typical row dwelling fire tasks cannot normally be performed within the appropriate time, the Fire Chief, Mayor and the rest of the city hall dwellers need to stand up, take ownership and make it very clear to the community, the taxpayers, to NOT expect their fire department be able to perform the basic tasks. Pre-determining what realistically can be done and cannot be done when the available staffing, leadership and resources are matched against the predictable incidents. It’s a sad reality…with the other option being to fix the problem by taxpayer supported funding and providing what is needed for the community and members of the department.

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