Updated: 05-20-2004 10:58:57 AM

New York State Fire Lieutenant Severely Burned In Backdraft

Courtesy of Albany Times Union

ALBANY -- A fire lieutenant was burned early today when he was caught in a backdraft explosion on the second floor of a house next to one that was already burning on First Street.

Lt. Eric Schindler, of Rescue 2, was treated at Albany Medical Center Hospital for severe burns to his neck and ears, said Battalion Chief Rick Rafferty.

The fire, which went to three alarms, was reported at 2 a.m. at 334 First St., and Schindler was among the crew that had entered the house next door at 332 First St. when it exploded in a fireball. The explosive force was enough to bulge the front and back walls of the building, the chief said.

Rafferty said explosive gases created by the fire next door had seeped from one attic into the other. The heat and pressure built up and exploded in what firefighters call a ``backdraft'' when it got a burst of oxygen.

The chief, who said this was the first backdraft he has seen in all his years on the department, said another fire crew was ventilating 334 First St. when the backdraft occurred. Ventilating is a technique by which a hole is cut, usually in a roof, to give smoke and gases an escape route and to draw a fire toward the hole.

The chief said the first units to arrive found the rear of 332 First St. burning and soon put in a second alarm. The third alarm came at 2:28 a.m. About 60 city firefighters were called to the scene, while fire units from Green Island, Watervliet and Troy were brought in to serve the rest of the city.

Rafferty said an arson dog from the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control found nothing during a search this morning of 332 First St. The fire appeared to have begun on the back porch of the first floor, he said.