Nebraska Firefighter Talks About Near-Fatal Fall

Posted: 01-24-2008
Updated: 01-25-2008 04:57:27 PM

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OMAHA, Neb. --

An Omaha firefighter fell through the floor while battling a fire at a vacant house near North 31st and Charles streets.

Officials said Firefighter Kevin Mandina was injured shortly arriving at the scene. He fell through the first floor when the floorboards collapsed. He fell in but didn't go all the way to the basement, stopping at his shoulders, officials said.

"You could barely see through the smoke," said Capt. Ron Smoyer. "I see Firefighter Mandina's shadow, and all of the sudden, it wasn't there anymore."

"Just for a quick second, the floor just felt kind of spongy right when I got on top of it," Mandina said. "And then it just gave way."

Other crews at the scene said they worked to pull Mandina from the hole, but in the meantime, flames had engulfed his legs, back, chest and torso.

He wasn't seriously hurt and continued to battle the blaze.

Firefighters said that a basement fire is the one of the most dangerous situations they can be in, and said Thursday's fire could easily have ended in tragedy.

Mandina said it all happened so fast that it was hard to realize what he'd really been through. At the end of the day, he said he's not too shaken up about it, and he called it all a part of the job.

"You know when you come on the job there's danger involved, and you're just thankful for the way it turned out," Mandina said.

Crews said the bitter wind chills made fighting this fire especially difficult and created dangerous working conditions for everyone who responded.

The cause of the fire was ruled to be an electrical problem.

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