RAPID INTERVENTION TEAM TRAINING
LINE OF DUTY DEATH STORY
JOHN NANCE –
JULY 25, 1987. 27-year Columbus Fire Department veteran, John Nance died as the result of a fall into a basement at a commercial fire. Nance was just weeks from retirement.
Nance and his crew responded with additional companies to a 4 story, 11,500 square foot building with reported heavy smoke from the first floor. It was believed to be a basement fire. Nance and his crew entered the rear of the structure in search of the fire. Heavy smoke and the size of the structure hindered Nance’s crew, leaving them with less than three feet of visibility. Their SCBA cylinders began to run low and heat could be felt from below them. Nance and his crew exchanged their cylinders and reentered the structure.
The IC ordered Nance and other firefighters to vent the basement with power saws through the floor. As Nance was searching for a place to cut the hole, he fell in. He was 70 feet from the rear door where he had entered. Firefighter
A hose line was brought in to cool Nance, but was too short. A rope was used, but three firefighters could not pull Nance up. Nance was still able to stand up, tie off the rope and help in his own rescue.
A ladder was brought in an attempt to get Nance out of the hole. By this time, Nance was critically low on air and exhausted. As the ladder arrived, the hole was too small. Several frantic minutes were spent to enlarge the hole with axes. The ladder was lowered at a 90-degree angle and a spare air cylinder was handed to Nance. As Nance ascended the ladder, crews realize he had climbed up the wrong side and struck his head on the floor joists.
Several other rescue attempts were made, including breaching walls from adjacent basements and sending someone down into the hole. By this time Nance was unconscious and the structure was well involved in fire.
John Nance’s body was recovered from the ruins the next afternoon. The unused second air cylinder that his brothers had lowered to him was lying beside him.