Two Firefighters Seriously Injured in Cedar Rapids Apartment Complex Fire
UPDATE: Both firefighters sustained fractures and will need some time to recover, but they have been released from the hospital.
Early Sunday morning at 1:19 a.m. the Cedar Rapids Fire Department were dispatched to Westdale Court Apartments in southwest Cedar Rapids after a reports of smoke alarms going off and smoke in the kitchen of an apartment.
According to a media release from the city, when firefighters arrived to 3919 20th Avenue SW, they found a moderate amount of smoke in the stairwell leading to the second floor of the two-story complex. A fire crew then entered the apartment and began combating the fire but lost water pressure in the hose line. Around the time of the lost pressure, at 1:35 a.m, there was a "catastrophic failure of the hose line that caused blunt force trauma resulting in serious injuries to two firefighters that were outside of the structure." One firefighter was "struck in the head and rendered unconscious", while the other was "struck in the chest and knocked down."
Both firefighters received emergency medical care and then were transported to UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital. The firefighter struck in the head sustained serious head injuries and was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The other firefighter sustained injuries to the upper torso. Luckily the injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
Around 2:30 a.m. the release states that the apartment complex fire compromised the structural integrity of the floors, and firefighters had to combat the fire from outside the building, which proved to be difficult in the extremely cold conditions. Fire crews encountered several issues including hose lines freezing to the ground, other equipment freezing, and a dangerous wind chill. The video below shows just how cold temperatures were.
Thankfully other organizations stepped in to help including the Cedar Rapids Police Department and Area Ambulance Service who provided vehicles for firefighters to stay warm between fire suppression efforts, the City of Cedar Rapids Streets Department, Water Department, and Fleet Services who assisted with icy conditions and equipment issues, and American Red Cross volunteers who supplied water and food to firefighters.
How exactly the fire started is still under investigation. We'll continue to update the story as more information becomes available.