Public Safety

Cedar Rapids firefighters seriously injured with hose's 'catastrophic failure'

Engine 1, Truck 1 and Rescue 1 are parked in the bay at the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Engine 1, Truck 1 and Rescue 1 are parked in the bay at the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Two firefighters were seriously injured early Sunday at a Cedar Rapids apartment fire when a hose line failed, causing blunt force trauma.

One firefighter was struck in the head and knocked unconscious, and another was struck in the chest and knocked down, according to a news release from the city. Both were provided immediate emergency medical care and transported to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital. The firefighter with a head injury was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Though their injuries are serious, they do not appear to be life-threatening, the release said.

At 1:19 a.m., the Cedar Rapids Fire Department was dispatched to a report of smoke alarms activated by smoke in an apartment’s kitchen at Westdale Court Apartments, 3919 20th Ave. SW. Firefighters found moderate smoke in a stairwell of the two-story apartment complex.

While in the apartment unit, they suddenly lost water pressure in the hose line and had to back out to use a different hose line. Another fire crew found a hole in the floor and discovered that the fire was extending throughout the floor joists between the first and second floors.

At about 1:35 a.m., when the water pressure was lost, the “catastrophic failure of the hose line” caused the serious injuries to the firefighters, who were outside the structure.

By 2:30 a.m., the fire had compromised the structural integrity of the floors, and firefighters moved to an exterior position.

Fire crews remained on the scene Sunday afternoon while continuing to address hot spots, according to the release.

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

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The extreme cold caused frozen hydrants, valves, nozzles and hose lines. Nearby fire hydrants also were buried in snow. Several hose lines were frozen into the ground.

No apartment residents were injured though five of the eight units were occupied at the time of the fire. The American Red Cross is helping the displaced residents.

Cedar Rapids police brought a special response vehicle for firefighters to use to stay warm between fire suppression operations. Area Ambulance Service also brought additional units to help keep firefighters warm and continuously evaluated their medical condition.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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