Lighthouse Landing Fire A Year Later

A full year has passed since the Department of Public Safety was dispatched to a structure fire in the vicinity of Lighthouse Landing.  The dispatch came through at 7:56 p.m. on November 20, 2022, the fire was partially contained around 9:45 p.m. and fully contained around 1:00 a.m.  Several mutual aid agencies provided assistance. The fire resulted in the total loss of three Lighthouse Landing units and one single-family home along with its crofter.  A Bald Head Island Public Safety fireguard was on the scene through the night and into the morning making sure that any rekindling was suppressed quickly.  The fire marshal’s investigation determined the fire originated at the single-family dwelling on North Bald Head Wynd and classified the fire as undetermined and that an electrical malfunction could not be ruled out.

For those unfamiliar with the incident, you can read the Village’s reports HERE and HERE and a feature story on our unique Department of Public Safety HERE.

Ladder Truck

The fire brought the community together. A fundraiser was started by the Public Service Auxiliary to raise money for the purchase of a new ladder truck.  A special fundraising event boosted the amount. The total amount of donations from the PSA for the ladder truck came to $455,000. The Village’s current ladder truck is operable. Newer technology is available that will greatly assist in stabilizing a truck of this size on the Village’s narrow wynds and the additional 50’ length will allow for a longer span of reach over trees and structures.

Joe Elphick and Mary Porter hosted the special fundraising event.  Porter, a talented singer, and pianist performed a special concert for the attendees.

By February 2022, the Village had looked at several trucks, had manufacturers visit to see the unique working environment, and the final specifications for a new truck were finalized (see our update HERE). A request for proposals was issued in March 2022 and a bid was awarded to Fire Connections Inc. for $1,228,000. In June, Chief May, Captain Swanson, and Lieutenant Barger traveled to E-One’s manufacturing facility in Ocala, Florida for a pre-construction meeting.  You can view a short video on the trip HERE and read an account of the visit HERE.  The truck is currently awaiting production at the E-One facility in Florida. According to Chief May’s report at the October 24 Village Council meeting, the truck is still on target for a November 2023 to January 2024 delivery.

After Action Analysis (AAR)

The Public Safety Director requested a third party after action analysis of the fire. The analysis was performed by Paul Hasenmeier the Sunset Beach (NC) Fire Chief. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University as well as a master’s degree in Public Administration from Capella University. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. Additionally, Hasenmeier is trained as a Firefighter, Paramedic, Instructor, Fire Inspector, and in all of NFPA 1670’s technical rescue disciplines.

The full report can be found HERE.

Notable Accomplishments

Apparatus Inspection – Per the AAR, apparatus inspections are conducted daily. The pumps are run every day. Any deficiencies are noted on a checklist and in the daily shift report. The Captain is also notified and an email goes to vehicle maintenance. Depending on the urgency, an immediate phone call is made, especially if the vehicle has to be put out of service.

Purchase of Apparatus  – Per the AAR, A decision was made on the service and/or replacement of department apparatus.  A ladder truck was purchased (noted above), and a pumper and two ambulances (RFP issued on November 9. 2022) will be purchased with FEMA funds.

The Village’s new ladder truck will have outriggers like the ones holding up this truck at the E-One manufacturing facility. A narrow and scissor-type construction is preferred for the island’s narrow wynds. Our truck will be smaller due to height restrictions.

Capital Replacement Plan – A ten-year capital replacement plan has been developed with incremental apparatus replacement that will ensure peak operating efficiency for all vehicles.

One of the most important capital assets of a public safety agency is a reliable fleet. A Capital Replacement plan will endure the fleet is maintained in superior operating conditions and replaced when adequate performance levels can no longer be assured.

The useful lifespan of equipment is not solely dependent on age. There are several factors to be considered, including personnel safety, obsolescence, technological upgrades, the condition of major components, and the availability of parts, to name a few. It is commonly accepted that fire apparatus should be in front-line service for fifteen years followed by five years of reserve status.

Inventory and Operational Deployment Needs Assessment – To effectively fight fires and maintain the safety of the personnel, updated hoses, nozzles, and valves are essential.  Per the AAR, Public Safety is actively testing and evaluating the performance of these products.

The overall goal is to improve the efficiency, safety, and performance of each piece of vital equipment. Ultimately, minor problems identified at the scene and during the Lighthouse Landing event were overcome and did not impact the overall effort.

All turnout gear for Public Safety Department firefighters is in NFPA compliance.  The Village purchases five sets of gear every fiscal year to cycle through the inventory and spread the replacement cost over several years.  This practice will continue.

In addition, to ensure the turnout gear remains clean and serviceable, the Village purchased a heavy-duty gear washer and dryer specifically to meet the challenge of keeping the gear clean and quickly returning it to service. A monthly gear inspection has been implemented for the purpose of identifying conditions that may prove to be detrimental to the gears’ life expectancy, i.e., tears, holes, signs of deterioration, etc.

Purchase of Equipment –  In response to the AAR and the equipment inventory and operational deployment needs assessment, several purchases were made.

New turnout gear for the four volunteers who are certified as interior firefighters has been ordered.

Several other pieces of equipment have been purchased to support the department’s mission-ready status. Some of these were approved by the Village Council via budget amendments, they include:

  • Lighting – several battery-powered tripod lights
  • Second jet ski
  • Utility Task Vehicle (UTV)
  • Message Board

Water Utilities Assessed – The AAR included several incorrect assumptions made with regard to the water pumps and adequate pressure throughout the operation.  Per Public Services Director JP McCann, “…what affected the water flow at the specific hydrants was the proximity of access that was exercised during the fire suppression process.”  Mr. McCann said the pumps operated as expected, however, there was a control panel malfunction, and this is what triggered the speculation there was a water pressure issue.  Mr. McCann’s brief.

Community Risk Reduction Practices – Per the AAR the Village has accomplished the following:

  • Pine Straw Ordinance (adopted April 14, 2022)
  • Trained Fire Inspector and new Fire Prevention Division (more information HERE)
  • Monitored Smoke Detector System Guide – posted on the website and sent to Village’s Voice subscribers.
  • Public Information Officer (PIO) and Fire Inspector coordination with public education (ex. Fire Prevention Week).

Implement Resource Alarm Assignments – Per the AAR, alarm assignments and agency notifications have been restructured so as not to have an excess amount of personnel and equipment respond to the initial alarm. With these updates, a coordinated response is now in place.

Additionally, law enforcement mutual aid has been addressed. Since the BHI public safety personnel will all be in firefighting mode, law enforcement presence is necessary to maintain secure fire and crime scene lines for safety and later evidentiary purposes. The City of Southport and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office have agreed to provide sufficient personnel for that purpose.

Increase Hands-On Firefighter Training – Per the AAR all full-time Public Safety Officers participated in a live burn exercise at Sunny Point (video) on September 13 and 14, 2022. Plans are to do these exercises on a regular basis and to include volunteers.

The live burn training exercises at Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point helped prepare our PSOs for facing the intense heat and stress of a fire.  They received feedback from observers and tips based on previous experiences the Sunny Point personnel had learned during their firefighting careers.

Command and Control – Assignment and accountability boards are being updated to ensure proper placement of personnel and apparatus and upon completion of an event, all personnel and apparatus are properly accounted for.  These were used during the recent live fire exercise at Sunny Point.

SOG for Volunteers – Per the AAR a Standard Operating Guidance document is being drafted by volunteers. Public Safety staff will be working with the volunteers to finalize the document by January 2023.

Meeting with Volunteers and PSA

On July 26, 2022, Village Staff (including the Village Manager and Public Safety Director), and Councilors Hill and Gardner, met with public safety volunteers and Public Service Auxiliary members. The volunteers and members expressed concerns about the Department of Public Safety, some of which overlap with the recommendations provided in the After Action Analysis report. Several of the items have been fully addressed (completed) and some are in progress.  A full list of the items that were mentioned in the meeting and the current status can be found on THIS TABLE, the table will be updated as additional items are completed.