The weekend of December 7, 1996 was a cold one in New England. An unexpectedly nasty storm blanketed the entire region with heavy, wet snow. In Somers, CT, the local fire department responded to a house fire caused by a downed power line.
Before the night was over, FF/EMT Craig M. Arnone would be dead from electrocution.
There were investigations, allegations, and eventually lawsuits. What remains is the indisputable physical fact that FF Arnone came into contact with an energized 23,000 volt power line and was killed instantly.
At my fiance’s home in NH that Sunday morning, I was punched in the gut by one other indisputable fact: FF Craig Arnone was 23, two years younger than I.
His would be the first Line of Duty funeral I would attend. There have been other tragedies since – Worcester Cold Storage, Black Sunday, September 11, Boston Lts. Minehan and Kelley, a score of others – but none would affect me this way. Firefighter Arnone reminded me that I’m mortal.
There were numerous lessons to be taken from the tragedy; lessons involving Incident Command, communications, procedures for dealing with electricity and the power company, procedures for dealing with severe weather. For me, there was one major personal lesson: today could be The Day.
I don’t live for it; I don’t look for it; I don’t cower in fear of it. God willing, it won’t happen. I take reasonable precautions and try to keep safety in mind. I also never leave for shift or a call without kissing my wife and daughter goodbye. If it happens, I want their memories of my last contact to be loving ones.
This month, the Backstep Firefighter is entertaining the subject “Influential Fire Reports.” I was going to let it pass, but then I realized this incident affects me every day. Go on over there to see what others have found influential, and then drop by Happy Medic’s place for some advice on preparing for the unthinkable.
(Unfortunately I was unable to locate a link to the report on this incident. Google and Bing produce lots of news articles and casual mentions, but the full investigation is lost to me. It matters not.)