Public Safety

Officials investigating cause of hose failure that injured two firefighters Sunday

Injured firefighters are home and recuperating

The Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids firefighters who were seriously injured over the weekend when a hose line ruptured have been released from the hospital while fire officials investigate what happened.

Both firefighters were treated for fractures and were released from the hospital Sunday, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow told The Gazette on Wednesday. They will remain off-duty while they recuperate, Buelow said.

The firefighters were injured when called to a kitchen fire at Westdale Court Apartments, 3919 20th Ave. SW, at 1:19 a.m. Sunday, where a 1-and-3/4-inch hose ruptured, causing the hose to strike the firefighters, Buelow said.

One firefighter was struck in the head and face and knocked unconscious, and another was struck in the chest and knocked down, according to a news release from the city.

Both were outside the apartment building when injured. They were taken to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, and the firefighter with a head injury was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Fire officials are investigating what might have caused the hose to tear, Buelow said.

The hose “has been pulled from service,” he said in an email.

“The data module from the fire engine that was pumping water will be analyzed,” he said. “Interviews of all firefighters on the ground are being conducted, and all of the hoses are being retested before being placed back into service.”

He said officials also are working with the hose manufacturer as part of the investigation.

The fire department regularly tests its hoses for their integrity and ability to withstand pressure.

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While no conclusions have been reached, “the extreme cold temperatures likely contributed to the hose line failure,” Buelow said.

The extreme cold that morning — around 16 below zero — caused frozen hydrants, valves, nozzles and hose lines, according to the fire department. Nearby fire hydrants also were buried in snow, and several hose lines froze into the ground.

When the hose ruptured at around 1:35 a.m., firefighters inside the apartment building lost water pressure in the line and had to back out of the building and get another line, the city said in a news release.

A second fire crew found a hole in the floor just inside the entryway to the apartment and discovered the fire had extended throughout the floor joists between the building’s first and second floors.

By 2:30 a.m., the fire had compromised the building’s structural integrity, and firefighters moved outside.

The destroyed apartment building sustained major fire, smoke and heat damage.

Five of the building’s eight units were occupied, but no residents were injured.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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