NEWBERRY – The last thing Brady Sims recalls before waking up in the hospital on Tuesday Feb. 6 was cooking his dinner. Fortunately, because of training and teamwork from the City of Newberry Fire Department, Sims lives to tell the story of how a working smoke alarm saved his life.
Early that morning at approximately 12:48 a.m., the city fire department responded to a call of a report of smoke in a kitchen at Indian Hills Apartments.
When crews arrived on scene, City Fire Chief Keith Minick said they were advised that there may be someone in one of the apartments. Using forcible entry, firefighters gained access to Sims’ apartment to perform a search and fire attack.
“I was about to cook something and fell asleep and the next thing I knew I had collapsed in the smoke,” Sims said. “I don’t even remember being pulled out of the apartment, just woke up and was in the hospital.”
Although Sims had collapsed in the smoke of his apartment, his neighbor next door originated the call to the fire department due to smoke that had travelled through to her apartment and set off her smoke alarm.
“My neighbor was looking out for me,” Sims said. “I’m thankful.”
Captain Burt Mohler with the city’s fire department was able to force entry into the apartment along with Lieutenant Jimmy Bickley, to perform a search and locate Sims to rescue him to safety. Although Mohler sustained minor injuries during the rescue, he returned to work on Feb. 14.
Mohler said the original call came in from the apartment across from Sims, but that it was a game changer when they arrived on scene to find there may be someone inside the upstairs apartment.
Initial crews searched upstairs apartments without finding any residents/fire conditions. As information came to, they were redirected to Sims’ apartment, where they forced entry.
After gaining entry, Mohler said he saw the fire was located in the kitchen of the apartment and asked for a hose line from the firetruck before he and Bickley located Sims in the kitchen on the floor.
Going into someone’s home to fight a fire, Mohler said can only be described as entering with your eyes closed.
“It’s an unfamiliar environment you have to make your way around,” Mohler said. “And you’re doing it all by touch.”
While Mohler and Bickley were able to get Sims to safety, they stress that it was absolutely a team effort that led to such a positive outcome.
“It took the guy laying the line to the hydrant, parking the truck to pull lines off of the fire truck, going up to the second floor of the apartment to provide information, to getting someone downstairs and then finding Mr. Sims,” Mohler said.
Bickley said they had to give their shift crew credit for doing what they were supposed to do, leaving everything to work out in their advantage.
“It also goes back to Mr. Sims’ neighbors saying that he may still be in his apartment,” Bickley said.
When Mohler was able to get Sims close to the apartment door, Bickley assisted with getting him to the Newberry County EMS personnel on scene.
Once Sims was rescued the teamwork continued with EMS on scene to give medical care and the American Red Cross being notified to assist with residents in two of the four apartments.
“It definitely wasn’t a one-person ordeal,” Mohler said.
Minick said their department had just completed training on forcible entry and practiced rescuing a firefighter in a smoke-filled environment prior to the call coming in at Indian Hills.
The week before, Minick said they had completed refresher training with a forcible entry prop to show how to force into swinging doors and the day prior they had scheduled training involving simulated smoke.
“We had people in full gear go through an obstacle course among the smoke and find a ‘training manikin’ and bring it back out,” Minick said. “And then at midnight on Tuesday morning they are catching a call that ended up being laid out just like the training.”
Mohler said he had no doubt that the training they had was very beneficial to saving Sims’ life.
Debriefing is also a large part of what the fire department does, Minick said, and they have already begun that process with this call to see what went right and what they could have done better.
“We always want to debrief to see what we can improve on for the future to provide that quality of service to our citizens,” Minick said.
An important piece of advice Minick said for the community that came from this call is to have working smoke alarms, because they could very well save your life. Because of the age of the Indian Hills apartment complex they were not required to have a fire sprinkler system, but did have working smoke alarms.
Information a caller gives to 9-1-1 is also of extreme importance.
“The information you give to 9-1-1 could speed up the process for us when we arrive on scene so giving as much information as you can is helpful,” Minick said.
Minick said he appreciated the response and effort of the teamwork that went into this call and wanted to personally thank the crews that made this possible.
“Hopefully through fire prevention and training we can continue to have better outcomes like this,” Minick said.
City Manager Matt DeWitt said he could not be more proud of the rescue operation the city’s fire department team achieved when saving Sims’ life.
“It shows the dedication and passion our department has and their regular training could not have been more crucial in the extraction of Mr. Sims from his residence,” DeWitt said.