SF firefighters remain hospitalized

February 7, 2009 2:53:37 PM PST
Investigators are still looking into the cause of a three-alarm fire early Thursday at a vacant San Francisco home that injured six firefighters, two of whom remained hospitalized Saturday morning, a fire lieutenant said.

Christopher Posey, a firefighter receiving care at San Francisco General Hospital for life-threatening injuries to his respiratory system, "had a good night" Friday but remains in intensive care today, fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

"He doesn't seem to be getting worse," she said about the firefighter and paramedic, an 11-year veteran of the department. "Recovery is a long process."

Talmadge said many employees at San Francisco General Hospital know Posey because of his work, and he "is in the best care that he could be in right now."

The other firefighter still hospitalized, Lt. James App, suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns, and is expected to be released from the burn center at St. Francis Hospital within a few days, according to Talmadge.

"His burns are improving," she said. "He's in good spirits."

Talmadge said the department has been receiving "an incredible amount of support from the community," through phone calls and e-mails. "So many people are concerned," she said.

Posey, App and four other firefighters were injured fighting the blaze that broke out at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday at a two-story home at 627 Felton St. More than 100 firefighters helped battle the flames, which were brought under control an hour later.

The blaze must have been burning for some time before the firefighters arrived, Talmadge said.

"When our entry team went in, within 10 to 12 minutes the roof collapsed," she said. "That's very unusual. That will not happen with a fire that has just started."

The collapse of the roof sent a sudden burst of heat down a hallway, which caused the firefighters' injuries.

Adding to the danger was the fact that the fire was burning in the rear of the building, so the flames were not immediately reported. A resident down the street called the fire department once the flames became visible.

"Usually we have enough time to get in there, get crews on the roof, get a hole in the roof and get that ventilated," Talmadge said. "The longer the fire has been going, the more comprising the structure is going to be."

"The crews followed standard operating procedures," she added. "They went in assuming people were inside."

The other four firefighters, who have since been released, were treated for injuries including burns, respiratory problems and a broken ankle, Talmadge said.