Incident 981448 - Call came in around 2045 hours. Dispatched were Engine 2, Engine 3, Tower 1, Rescue 2, and B/C Paul Wetmore Jr. in Car 3, who later called for Engine 4, Rescue 1, and Engine 8.
Engine 2, a four-man company at the time, was first on the scene, reporting a one-and-a-half story wood-frame ranch house with fire rolling out of all front windows.
Friday, March 27, 1998
19 Larkspur Lane today - Vision Appraisal
It's a Most Unusual Night
This was a very different kind of a first night on Platoon 3. A number of personnel were either on vacation or had swapped shifts, so several Platoon 3 personnel were not in their regular stations. Firefighter Gary Merwede, normally driving Engine 2, was at 3's driving the Maxim Telesqurt. Firefighter Rob "Maddog" Madigosky, then on Platoon 1, had swapped with Ff. Henry Puciato and ended up driving Engine 2.
Three fairly new firefighters were working extra at Station 2 that night. Firefighters Paul Anderson and John Bradbury were both on Engine 2, and Brian Badamo was on Rescue 2 with Ff./Paramedic Kerry Castracane. Capt. Dave Johnson and Ff. Castracane were the only regular Station 2 personnel of Platoon 3 on duty.
Ff. Madigosky - 1998
Now a lieutenant, Rob Madigosky recalls that the incident was initially dispatched as a fire in an electrical outlet. He said in a recent phone conversation that when he turned into Larkspur Lane with Engine 2, he saw the reflection of the fire in the windows of a house across the street and began to slow down. "It sure looked like the fire was in that house," he chuckled, remembering the captain yelling that the fire was actually across the street. This would be Madigosky's first pump job.
The captain recalled that on arrival Ff. Anderson jumped from the engine and yelled, "Should we grab the 2-1/2?" Anderson had it right. The initial attack was going to require a lot more than an inch-and-three-quarter hand line.
Praise the Lord and Duck the Ammunition!
As Engine 2's crew pulled their pre-connected 2-1/2" line for an interior attack, they were informed by the homeowner that live ammunition was on a dining room table, but the ammo was not in a firearm. Oh, boy!
In a fire, a non-chambered bullet will not pose the same degree of danger as one in a chamber. The fastest way to reduce dangers posed by loose ammo in a fire is to reduce the ambient temperature around it. In other words, put out the fire.
Engine 2 in 1998
Manning their fully charged 2-1/2" pre-connected line, Engine 2's crew opened the nozzle to a 30-degree fog pattern at the front door and slowly made their way inside. After a couple of minutes delivering an approximately 80 gallon-per-minute rotating fog pattern, enough heat had been absorbed to darken the flames in the living room and dining area.
Just as the LDH supply line was stretched to Engine 2 from the hydrant at Larkspur and Clover Circle, the pumper's tank went dry. Thanks to very good timing and quick actions by pump operator Ff. Rob Madigosky, literally seconds later the interior crew's 2-1/2" line was suddenly recharged.
Subsequent handlines manned by crews from Engines 3 and 4 assisted in extinguishing the remaining fire, which had extended into the attic area.
Deputy Chief Gary Merwede, then a four-year veteran firefighter, was driving the 1973 Maxim Telesqurt that night and was second due. He remembers "driving north on Lane and turning left on Clover . . . there was plenty of fire." While manning one of the interior handlines, Merwede added, "it got exciting when the stored ammunition started popping off in there."
Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make
It was department policy at the time for everyone to don their gear and test their Scott air packs at the start of each three day and night shift. After roll call, the captain spent a bit more time than usual testing his own donned Scott air pack while checking to see that his three "visitors" had properly donned and tested theirs. So when he donned his Scott again at the fire, he had already sucked down a few minutes of his air.
The captain admitted that after he and his crew had been attacking the fire for several minutes, he was more focused on the fire than on his Scott mask's vibralert when it began ringing - the very kind of "tunnel vision" he had once trained his fellow firefighters to avoid. "I was 50 years old at the time," he noted. "The two other guys were both half my age. Guess whose Scott bottle ran out first?"
When the captain's Scott vibralert suddenly stopped ringing because his air bottle was dead empty, he was very fortunate to get outside to fresh air before ripping off his mask. A minute or two later he was back inside wearing a fresh bottle.
Unfortunately, in addition to extensive damage to the house, the family's pet dog died in the fire. But there were no injuries to any family members or firefighters.
The house at 19 Larkspur Lane was built around 1960. Walls and ceilings were made of a very early type of drywall that, when thoroughly water soaked, sloughed off studs and ceiling rafters in clumps. Current records indicate that the original house was razed and completely rebuilt by the end of 1998.
George Patten was appointed to the Hamden Fire Department with Paul Wetmore Sr. and Bill LaVelle in January 1962. During his nearly 33 years on the job, George was not only a fine firefighter, but also tough negotiator for all three of the department's bargaining units. the Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association (1948-78), the Hamden Firefighters' Association (1978-79), and the Hamden Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2687, I.A.F.F. (1979-present).
George was an avid firearms enthusiast and member of the National Rifle Association. He was also a lover of exotic cars. Many of us remember his shiny red Corvette. Having retired just seven years earlier, George passed away 15 years ago this coming week after a valiant battle with cancer.
We wanted the present and future department members to know about George, who was one of many who made the job better and safer.