September 28, 1992: At 0207 hours, a reported structure fire in a two story commercial occupancy, located at 1625 S Broadway was received by dispatch. Heavy smoke was billowing from the structure upon arrival, but no visible fire seen. After forcible entry, high heat and extreme smoke conditions were encountered. Multiple fires were found in remote rooms, all heavily involved in fire. Additional companies were requested by command. Engineer Mark Langvardt of Truck 16, was performing truck operations on the 2nd floor, when he became separated from his partner. With a subsequent partial floor collapse of the 2nd floor, Langvardt found himself in a room measuring 6′ x 11′, filled with filing cabinets and business equipment, with an aisle only 28″ wide. The only window, was 20″ wide with a sill height of 42″, covered by a security grate. Engineer Langvardt was trapped and low on air. He was able to break a small hole in the window with his flash light, which alerted command and firefighters out front that he was in trouble. A 2nd alarm was transmitted, and an intense rescue operation initiated. The confined space of the room proved to be a challenge. Simultaneously, while attempts were being made to get Langvardt out through the window, a breaching of the room wall was being undertaken also. The advancing fire required hand lines to be directed into the room, which complicated the rescue attempts. Rescuers could not raise Langvardt up and out the window because of the narrow space, the distance to the sill and his weight in full bunking gear. After a 55 minute rescue operation, access to Langvardt was achieved through the breached wall. Langvardt was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead from smoke inhalation. Engineer Mark Langvardt became the 50th Denver Firefighter to make the Ultimate Sacrifice. Many Lessons were learned from his tragic death, namely the “Denver Drill” on confined space rescue evolved and is now taught throughout the country. Jody Aquirre was sentenced to life in prison without parole for masterminding the arson.
More information on this fire and the lessons learned can be found in the April 1993 story in Fire Engineering Magazine as well as the following link:
Photos from the Denver Post. Article from Fire Engineering Magazine.
By Assistant Chief Gregory Taft