The Cumberland Gap Volunteer Fire Department (CGVFD) provides fire and rescue services to the historic town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, and the surrounding area. CGVFD is staffed, operated, and managed entirely by osteopathic medical students at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) in Harrogate, Tennessee. Call volume 2012: 34 total, 18 false. 2013: 27 total, 19 false. 2014: 30 total, 20 false.
Trained and ready for action, the CGVFD medical student firefighters were called to duty during finals week on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. Tones drop, “Cumberland Gap Volunteer Fire Department, have a report of a house fire, fully involved, unknown if anyone is inside, time now 23:41.” Every member heard the call and, despite being tired from the constant studying and testing over the past few days, responded without hesitation. Fire Chief Brandon Wilkinson (osteopathic medical student [OMS] year II) first responded to the fire station and then onto the fire in Engine 81, with firefighter Wayne Cox (OMSIII) shortly after in Tanker 82. “Both apparatus en route, all firefighters respond straight to scene,” Wilkinson advised on the radio. With smoke visible a mile away, Wilkinson arrived on scene to Ken Todd (OMSIII), Chris Moore (OMSIII), Patrick Herling (OMSII), and Andrew Smith (OMSI) dressed in turnouts. They were standing outside a large two-story home with fire rolling through its kitchen and living room and out the exterior wall and making a run for the rest of the house. “We have to get in there quick, or else the whole thing is gonna go,” Todd said as he grabbed a self-contained breathing apparatus off the truck and started walking toward the house.
With the engine parked and in pump gear, everyone moved as they had trained many times before. Lines stretched out, hoses charged, and water flowing, the firefighters organized in teams of two and formulated an action plan quickly as the initial attack got underway. Using pike poles to pull down the ceiling and expose the fire, they were able to get in front and effectively stop the fire from running through the ceiling and burning down the whole house. Once the fire was extinguished, a secondary search was performed along with overhaul to determine, without question, that the fire was now completely extinguished.
Standing in the middle of the driveway in smoke-stained turnouts, looking up in the now cool, calm night sky, Todd asked Wilkinson, “What do you have in the morning?”