Last night we had elections in my firehouse and I was voted in as the new Captain. Not 3 hours after I got home did the pager go off (around 12:30AM) for an activated fire alarm. I shot down to the firehouse and as I'm gearing up, dispatch came again and confirmed it was a working fire, and that the Police on scene stated there was heavy smoke coming from a strip-mall. My new Lieutenant was driving, and I had 1 experienced guy, 1 kinda-experienced guy and 1 new guy in the engine with us.
As we pulled up, I yelled that the 2 least experienced were to grab a hydrant and tie the engine in to the water supply, and being that it was a strip-mall, I told my experienced guy that him and I were to stretch a 2 1/2 inch line as the initial attack line.
We slowly rolled closer to the fire building. The strip mall had about 8 units in it, the middle-most unit was Sushi Cafe - the fire unit. Heavy smoke was coming from the eaves of the fire unit and both adjacent units. I stretched a dry hoseline to the front door to get a better look and noticed the front glass was jet-black with streaks coming down it. Something didn't feel right. I looked at the glass door and it had cracks in the glass from left to right. No smoke was coming from the door, just from the eaves.
As I was waiting for the driver to charge our hoseline, I decided it was smart to throw up a 14 foot ladder to the roof to help anyone going up. In my eyes, we still had a backdraft risk and I wanted to ventilate it vertically before we opened the door. Once the ladder was put up, we put our masks on and knelt down by the door where I opened it slightly to vent. Not much heat came out and just some smoke, but it all looked normal so I looked at the guy behind me and said "...Ready?" He was.
As we crawled in, I remember my driver saying he didn't have water from the hydrant yet so we were working off the tank water from the engine, a mere 500 gallons. This would typically last about 2-3 minutes with a 2 1/2 inch line. We felt heat immediately and were met by some chairs and furniture. I stopped us about 8 feet in and hit the ceiling with a short burst of water. This was my way of checking to see if there was fire or extreme heat above us that maybe we didn't feel yet. As I could hear and feel the water come back down on us, I said "...alright lets push farther, give me more line."
We crawled in about 15 feet, and were just about to the end of the restaurant before I heard someone at the door where we entered yelling "WE GOT HEAVY FIRE BEHIND YOU." This is NOT what I wanted to hear. I turned around and saw a slight glow and realized there was a 4-foot countertop that had been blocking our view of the fire the entire time, and we had crawled right past it. It crossed my mind to back out, but we had 3 guys and a 2 1/2 line to contend with, so I said "Let's hit it from here." I climbed up onto the countertop and straddled it while the other 2 guys behind me brought the hoseline 180degrees around and handed it up to me. The way the line was bent, I still couldn't get a direct shot at the fire yet so I hit the ceiling right above it and let the water rain down on it. This dimmed it down a bit until my guys finally positioned the line better and I got a direct shot at the fire.
Already I noticed the smoke was letting up a bit and I could see some things around me. I rubbed my mask and realized that most of the lack of visibility was due to steam buildup on the outside of the mask itself. The Chief called me on the radio and asked if I wanted the large plate glass window taken out in the front for ventilation, I yelled "NEGATIVE, just use the open door for now. We have the main body of fire knocked down at this time and are looking for extension."
Visibility improved drastically and we were able to see everything in the restaurant in a light haze as the counter and wall cooled off with some more water. We walked outside and saw another company trying to break into the other units in the strip mall. When I looked up, I still saw heavy smoke coming from the eaves of a few other units. This was discomforting. We used tools and some hydraulics to gain entry into the other units, and found just residual smoke probably from the air ducts, but no more fire.
Pretty smooth for my first fire as a Captain.