Concord memorial honors two firefighters

July 21, 2008 7:14:47 PM PDT
There was a somber anniversary in Contra Costa County on Monday. A year ago, two firefighters died trying to save a couple trapped in their burning home. What seemed like a routine call for help, turned chaotic. Now, new recommendations will be implemented to make sure this kind of disaster doesn't happen again.

The names Matthew Burton and Scott Desmond are now part of a new memorial honoring Contra Costa County firefighters. Monday, their colleagues remembered their heroic actions.

"It was one year ago, this very day, in the darkness of the early hours of the morning phones began to ring, setting in motion events that would deeply impact forever so many lives," said Darrel Phillips, from the Chaplain Sheriff's Department.

There were events that led to the deaths of four people, including two firefighters. On that morning, there were a series of mistakes made which led to a one-year investigation and a report including 115 recommendations.

On July 21, 2007, Desmond and Burton responded to a San Pablo house fire. They were looking for Delbert and Gayle Moore when the roof collapsed.

Now an investigation concluded that there were serious delays and gaps in communication.

For starters, the homeowners' alarm company called a non-emergency line, and never said the house was on fire. That led to a ten-minute delay.

"When the fire district was finally notified that there was an actual fire, the delay was significant and the time-temperature curve was something they couldn't overcome," said Lou Paulson, from California Professional Firefighters.

The report also questions the level of experience of the fire department. Fire Chief Keith Ritcher admits there has been a significant exodus of experienced firefighters.

"We have to do more training, more simulations and put procedures in place that prevent people that prevent people from getting themselves in harm's way, as happened here," said Chief Ritcher, from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

Crews also had a hard venting the fire from the roof.

"The problem in that particular structure was there was an original flat roof and a pitched roof had been built on top of it. So the ventilation crew was unable to get into the area where the fire was actually was burning," said Keith Ritcher.

"Our job is to learn everything we can to close that gap and be much better as a result," said Dave George, a Battalion Chief.


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