While knocking on doors for a fundraiser yesterday, I approached the house that had the May 2007 fire on John Street. The owner seemed very grateful for the good job we did and invited me in to take a look. It took a while for me to get my bearings once in the basement, first because we entered from the rear and he took me this time through the front, and secondly because everything just looks a lot different in broad daylight as compared to a smoke filled hotbox.
He showed me that the fire started behind a boiler that was having problems, and I saw where it worked up the wall and up to the spot where the fireball blew out at me and my current lieutenant. The guy was grateful but said his father was angry that we, the firemen, tore up the walls and broke windows. Civilians sometimes don't understand that 95% of the damage we do is for investigation or fire-stop purposes, or to improve the inferno-like conditions a house can take during a fire for our crews.
Broken windows is our main source of ventilation, which means less heat, more oxygen and better visibility for the guys inside, and these are vital. Taking down walls is an attempt to find hidden fire, or paths the fire might be taking as it travels through the walls and floors of a dwelling. The guy seemed to understand this all but reminded me of how sometimes our actions are misunderstood and house owners think firemen are just bulls in china shops. We made a great, quick stop that day ONLY because we opened up the walls and ceiling and found the fire before it took over completely.