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Jeff’s Journalism Adventure and the Vinings Fire

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At Pace, we seem to have an excessive number of fire drills every year. However prepared we may be, though, it is difficult to imagine what a real, all-consuming fire would be like. According to Director of Facilities Dave Fortier, Pace has never had any sort of fire whatsoever in its long history.

On March 31 on Bakers Farm Road in Vinings, one such destructive fire did break out, and I was on site to witness the incident. I had just pulled into my driveway and was still sitting in the car, making phone calls, when I heard fire truck sirens and wailing klaxons sounding off down the street. I got out of my car and turned around to see a massive wall of flames on top of a house three doors down, trailed by a stream of thick, black smoke. The fire truck came barreling past my house and pulled up to my neighbor’s home; fire fighters sullenly piled out of the truck, looking tense, and suiting up in their jackets. Several unrolled the hoses from the back of the truck, which can weigh over forty pounds each, rushing them to the nearest fire hydrant.

By then, my dad had come outside, and we ran down the street not only to get a closer look, but also to try and see if the owners were home. Several more fire trucks arrived; by the end, eight were present from not only Cobb County but the Smyrna area as well. A police officer also quickly arrived on the scene, setting up a barricade in order to keep the fire fighters’ path clear of obstruction. Another officer went to the top of the street to keep the rubbernecking public and general traffic from entering. Since I had arrived early, however, I was one of about four neighbors who was in the “front” zone, and thus I was able to see the entire three and a half hour event transpire firsthand.

After most of the fire fighters had suited up, a crewman with a jacket and helmet labeled “engineer” started working all the controls on the side of the truck. The policeman at the barrier, whom I quickly befriended, explained that the engineer has to know the features of the truck inside and out in order to fix any technical issues that may arise. Ultimately, the fire fighters set up a main hose to spray through the front door and windows, which had already burned away, and they deployed a crew up the ladder on the truck nearest to the house for a better vantage point. The policeman explained to me that the fire fighters manning the hoses up top actually have to chain themselves into the command box and, during training, are required to actually hang from the top.

To open a “third front,” the engineer sent in an entry team through the garage window. This crew was tasked with finding and tackling “hot spots,” which they successfully did. Finally, each of the three teams had to be rotated with substitute fire fighters waiting on the street due to the extreme heat. When the old crew switched out, they immediately threw off their helmets and downed several water bottles.

Around 4 p.m., the fire was mostly contained. The emergency vehicles started departing, save for several engineers who stayed until nightfall to continue monitoring the “hot spots,” to make certain they weren’t going to spark up again. By this time, I had walked up to the top of the street, where Fox 5 news asked for the video I took of the fire (which the owner actually told me to take for insurance purposes), later airing it on the 6 p.m. news. Thus began my professional journalism career! The exclusive video can be seen at: <www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/news/local_news/two-alarm-fire-destroys-vinings-home-20120331-tm>

By Jeff Handler, Staff Writer ’13


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