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Lynbrook Firefighters Escape Fireball

Story & photos by  Ex Captain Steven Grogan  

Lynbrook firefighters were lucky to escape injury and burns when a fireball exploded from the attic of a house while they were searching for occupants and trying to find the cause of a fire in a two-family house at 66 Earle Avenue on Saturday afternoon, April 27th. 

Lynbrook firefighters were called there at 4:28 PM, and upon the quick arrival of the first engine from Vulcan Company 2, found fire around the front door framing and in the small roof above the door. First Assistant Chief Michael Anderson arrived and broadcast a Signal 10 for a working fire. Although there was not much fire around the front door, heavy smoke was seen billowing from the attic eves.

Vulcan Company immediately stretched a hose line to the front of the house while manpower from the additional arriving companies stretched three additional lines. When Truck Company arrived their manpower immediately entered the building to find the main body of fire and search for any occupants.   Firefighters first began attacking the fire around the front door.   

When firefighters entered the house there was little smoke inside because the fire was in the front wall and climbing swiftly into the attic. Third Assistant Chief John Chavatte had just climbed the front stairs to the second floor when the ceiling above the staircase suddenly split down the middle and a fireball of fire and superheated smoke exploded down upon him from the attic. The chief, who was with firefighter Charlie D'Agostino, of Truck Company, pushed D'Agostino into the front living room and away from the fireball, but the chief, however, was thrown violently into the wall and down to the floor by the force of the explosion.  

"I heard the noise behind me but didn't know why the chief was pushing me until I turned and saw the fireball behind us," said D"Agostino. As this was occurring, the firefighters who were putting out the fire around the front door, heard a loud "swishing" sound, like a long blast of air when the explosion occurred. At the same time the front door suddenly slammed shut in their faces.   The force of the fireball was what some firefighters have described as a "backdraft." It is believed that the superheated smoke and heat was trapped in the confined attic and with nowhere to escape it found the weakest spot in the sheetrock above the staircase when it ignited.   A piece of sheetrock in the second floor living room also blew out.   An inspection of the electrical switches and plugs in the second floor kitchen and bathroom found the fire had also exploded out of them as well.   The fireball, after igniting and blowing downward, quickly burnt itself out.  Nothing was ignited from it. Seconds later you would have never known it happened. 

The fire was extinguished in the upstairs walls on the second floor along the front of the house and above the front door and into the front of the attic. During the height of the firefighting, Truck Company with an assist from the East Rockaway Fire Department laddered the house and cut holes in the roof to  vent the heat and smoke.

Chief Edward Hynes, who was in charge of firefighting operations, requested a mutual aid assistance from the Rockville Centre, East Rockaway, Lakeview, and Malverne Fire Departments. "We appreciate the assistance of our neighboring departments who helped and stood-by to cover other alarms in Lynbrook, said Chief Hynes.      

Lynbrook's Emergency Medical Company stood-by to help any aided, but no firefighters were injured. The cause of the fire was not considered suspicious but the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office will conduct a routine investigation. Firefighters were at the scene for nearly two hours.        

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