Ricky Mantey, Mitch Moran, and Lt. Gregory Pickard were the three firefighters who went into the burning Knights of Columbus Hall Friday night to rescue Lt. Eric Wallace, who said he was low on oxygen and needed help. They were the Rapid Intervention team that night, whose job is to respond if a firefighter is in distress.
“We have procedures that we do for every building fire. They're based on order of arrival,” said Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor.
At the Bryan Fire Department, fire officials say the first engine to arrive at a fire scene is in charge of assessing the situation, making decisions, and attacking the fire. Lt. Wallace's company from Fire Station One was the first to arrive Friday night. Lt. Pickard and firefighters Mantey and Moran arrived with Engine Five.
“Engine Five that night was in the role of Rapid Intervention Team, which is something we do at every fire,” said Chief McGregor. “They're only function is to be ready to respond in the event that a firefighter becomes in distress, as Lt. Wallace did.”
No two fire departments are the same, but College Station and Bryan Fire Departments have similar procedures in place because they assist each other at fires all the time.
“When Bryan comes here, we know what to expect of them. We go there, they know what to expect of us,” said College Station Fire Department Training Captain Joe Don Warren.
Cpt. Warren says all firefighters with the Bryan and College Station Fire Departments are trained to be part of Rapid Intervention Teams, or RIT teams. A RIT team is comprised of three firefighters, and is usually in place any time a firefighter enters a building that's on fire.
“We teach our firefighters, if they become trapped, to shine a light up towards the ceiling, so we can see that light and hopefully go to them,” said Cpt. Warren.
Firefighters deal with challenges every day, but nothing can compare to the loss of two of their own.
“This is our darkest hour in 142 years this organization has been in existence,” said Chief McGregor, during a news conference Sunday.
Fire officials say details about what happened when the RIT team went in Friday night won't be released until the State Fire Marshal investigation is complete, which could take up to six months.
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