Fighting Fires

From Bar member Alan Coxie:

While enjoying ice cream on Merrimon Avenue on the evening of August 31, 2022, my friend and I started smelling smoke in the vicinity.  Looking up we observed a woman attempting to put out a car fire with a solo cup of water. Moving towards Merrimon Avenue I was finally able to confirm with her that 9-1-1 had been called. I obtained a fire extinguisher from the ice cream shop and headed across Merrimon Avenue towards the car fire.

At the same time, my good friend Marc Rudow of my old law firm of Roberts & Stevens walked by me and remarked that “it was good to have someone on the scene that knew what he was doing.” As I approached the car fire I looked inside the vehicle to ensure no one (no babies) was in the vehicle. At the same time, the entire Rudow family moved to a better vantage point on the opposite corner of Merrimon when they set up on-scene command.

Realizing from the extent of fire spread that I would not be able to completely extinguish the fire with a small fire extinguisher, I thought an appropriate firefighting goal would be to attempt to contain the fire until Engine 7 arrived. I began fighting the fire by applying extinguishing agent under the hood.

At the same time, Marc Rudow’s wife Deborah Miles acted as on- scene incident commander by shouting fire observations to me which could be clearly heard over the roar of both the car fire and traffic. Poor Marc, what he must endure at home!!

I attempted a fire extinguisher technique the Asheville Fire Department taught me involving an engine compartment “top down” approach. Fire extinguishers are essentially baking power with compressed air propellant in them. So when the trigger is pulled, the agent will come out and fall straight down. So if the extinguishing agent can be applied at the very top of the engine compartment, hopefully the fire can be smothered similarly to dumping baking soda on a burning skillet.

But the fire on this occasion was too far advanced and the fire re-emerged after each attempted fire extinguisher discharge.  At that point, the fire was likely feeding off of fuel from a burnt through gas line.

Incident commander Miles then apprised me of the volume of fire occurring beneath the vehicle. In light of her observations I moved to several different locations each time releasing extinguishing agent. However each time I did, the fire roared back at me. I was running low on fire extinguisher when on- scene commander Miles informed me that Engine 7 was now en route and on Merrimon Avenue.

Engine 7 arrived and I was very pleased as it is much easier to fight a vehicle or structure fire when you have all that fire gear and the assistance of an actual fire truck on the scene. I provided the incoming firefighters with a quick update and then backed away from the scene returning to the other side of Merrimon Avenue to resume my role as civilian observer.

Recently our bar administrator put out a request for current bar news and jokingly added that if anyone had fought any fires or rescued any babies to let her know.  In light of that request, I thought I would forward this, perhaps the very first Fire Report of the Buncombe County Bar, to her.

As a former Asheville Firefighter and now Buncombe County Bar member I also wanted to take a moment to say this – it is far too easy for society to see big red fire trucks arriving on an emergency scene and brave men and women firefighters jumping off and working to help us in times of crisis. Far too often however, what the general public fails to see is the heroic efforts of brave men and women attorneys who each day fight the fires of our clients’ legal issues and make saves equal to that of the fire service.

When you wake up each morning, put on your court attire and head out to the office or walk into the courtroom on behalf of a client, each and every member of the Buncombe County bar is performing work that is on par and equal to the valiant efforts of our nation’s fire departments and emergency services personnel

So never be scared to step up and help out for that is the stuff that we Americans are made of. Attorneys save lives not much differently than firefighters do. So thank you for your service.

Alan Coxie