An article yesterday gave the wrong address of a fire Tuesday in which three firefighters and a medical technician were injured. The correct address is 6227 30th St. NW.
A D.C. fire captain was critically injured yesterday morning when he and another firefighter crashed through the first floor of a vacant house in Northwest Washington and were trapped under debris and surrounded by flames in the basement, D.C. Fire Department officials said.
"They just fell into the fire," said Lt. David R. Miller, who rushed inside when he heard the firefighters' screams. "The only thing that saved them from being burned alive was that we got a hose line in there and sprayed it directly on them in the basement."
A third firefighter and a medical technician were also injured while trying to rescue the men, who were pinned under a huge cast iron radiator that had fallen on them.
The trapped men were identified as Capt. Edgar Farve, 43, and firefighter William A. DiGiovanni, 28, both of Rescue Squad No. 4. They were taken to the Washington Hospital Center Medstar Unit, where Farve was listed at first in critical condition suffering from smoke inhalation. His condition was upgraded to serious last night. DiGiovanni, who also suffered smoke inhalation, was treated and released, a spokeswoman said.
Firefigher Stephen R. Dove, 30, of Engine Co. No. 20, and Ricardo Tappin, 24, a medical technician at Ambulance No. 2, were overcome by smoke while helping to rescue the men and were treated at the hospital and released, she said.
More than 40 firefighters battled the blaze, which started about 9:15 a.m. in the basement of 6225 30th St. NW, an unoccupied, two-story wood frame house that apparently was being used to store old furniture, fire officials said. They said the fire was spreading through the first floor when they arrived.
Farve and DiGiovanni were in the front living room on the first floor searching for possible victims when a 5-by-5-foot section of the floor caved in and they fell to the basement.
"The whole basement was on fire," Miller said, and pieces of the floor and the radiator fell on top of the men. He said firefighters sprayed water through the hole and basement windows trying to extinguish the flames near the men, who were unable to move.
After about five minutes two firefighters crawled through a window and removed the debris from atop the men, Miller said. He said ropes were tied around them and they were pulled to safety through the hole in the floor.
"It was scary," Miller said. "We just lost a firefighter, and that's what went through my mind when I heard the floor go and one of the guys hollered." He said it was amazing that neither man was seriously burned.
Firefighter John T. Williams was fatally injured Dec. 19 when he fell through the marquee of the Capital Book Store on 14th Street and landed in the basement, breaking his neck.
Yesterday's injuries aggravated a festering complaint among firefighters that they are ill-equipped for heavy smoke conditions because of an insufficient supply of one-hour oxygen masks. Firefighters said the masks have not been purchased by the fire department despite congressional appropriations every year since 1983.
Their complaint dates to a Jan. 13, 1982, Metrorail crash in which three persons died and more than 20 were injured. At the time, firefighters said their 30-minute masks were not sufficient to fight fires in Metro tunnels.
The issue arose again last October when 25 firefighters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation while fighting a four-alarm blaze on the ninth floor of the U.S. Postal Service Headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza.
According to firefighter Wayne Beheler, "some companies were not operating with a full complement of masks, and there was trouble with some of the older masks" that "went defective" during yesterday's fire. In addition, he said, many of the 30-minute masks ran out of air.
"Some guys weren't able to stay in there when they tried to get them out" of the basement, he said. With better masks, "They probably could have gotten them out a lot quicker."
A fire investigator said the cause of yesterday's blaze, which did about $50,000 damage, was under investigation.