"This was something I wasn't going to fight off"

"This was something I wasn't going to fight off"

Charlottesville firefighter David Allen compared it to standing over the top of a wood-burning stove’s chimney "looking right down it." He and three other firefighters were in the UVA heating plant, watering down coal stuck in chutes that had caught fire and continued to smolder.


Firefighter David Allen said that fighting the smoldering coal fire in UVA’s heating plant was like "standing over top of a wood-burning stove chimney.

While another company had placed a hose in the first chute, Allen’s team was sent in to pull the hose out. That meant he would be reaching into the chute, where areas had reached 500 degrees. But he was at the chute longer than he expected.

"[The hose] was hung on a piece of metal and we had a hard time getting it out," he says. "It wasn’t two or three minutes, but it wasn’t like walking over there and just pulling the hose out." After the team moved the hose, Allen started to feel nauseated. He took off his helmet and air mask. The room spun.

"I tried to do the firefighter’s deal, where you’re not going to tell somebody that something’s wrong," he says. "It didn’t take long to realize that this was something I wasn’t going to fight off."

Allen’s partner, Marc Ellis, recognized that Allen needed help. He started walking Allen down the narrow staircase, holding his suspenders from behind to steady him. But Allen was going in and out of consciousness. A firefighter coming up the stairs, Jeremy Evans, saw Allen and threw him on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. "And that’s when I left the building," says Allen, "just like Elvis."

Allen had an ice vest put on him and was given an IV in the ambulance that rushed him to the UVA Hospital. He was released the next morning and now feels fine. Ellis, Evans and the other firefighters’ quick work averted what could have become a dangerous situation for all of them. "If I had been unconscious coming out of there," he says, "it would have been a little bit of an ordeal."

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