|Photos: Courtesy of Larry Patterson|
Arlington County firefighters said the blaze looked like a ``towering inferno'' and had the intensity of a ``blowtorch.''
Lt. John Walker, of Truck 79, suffered severe respiratory injuries that ultimately led to his retirement. Patterson said Walker may be the firefighter on the hose line in the top photo. Several other firefighters suffered lesser injuries.
For 90 minutes, crews struggled against the flames. ``We were fighting a losing battle,'' said Assistant Fire Chief John Spink, quoted by The Washington Post.
Retired Fire Capt. Howard Piansky was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the blaze and provided this account of the incident:
``I was the wagon driver for 5A and we were of course first in ... The engine pulled up with nothing showing and the crew composed of Captain Rahner and firefighters Piansky, Tabscott and Cooper, with McPherson and Orgel on Rescue 5. McPherson came running into the lobby after the engine company and reported fire showing.
``Hooking up to the standpipe, the crew proceeded towards the apartment on fire when the evacuation alarm sounded, bringing scores of people out into the heavy, down-to-the-knees smoke. (That) caused us to abandon extingushment and make numerous rescues. Several crew members were injured ... and a flashover in the hallway had a least one medic thrown down the stairs.''