Fire chiefs speak out about Abby Theatre fire safety report - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Fire chiefs speak out about Abby Theatre fire safety report


State safety officials say the two departments on the scene of the fire at the historic Abby Theatre fire were not communicating as well as they should have. Jamison Kampmeyer died in March while fighting that fire in Abbotsford.

A state safety report said crews at the scene had a communication breakdown, which caused problems for both the Colby and Abbotsford fire departments.

"It does get pretty hectic, pretty chaotic and even when you have a radio in your hand, you may be talking to somebody and they may be talking on a different channel and you just don't get it," said Colby fire chief Ross Rannow.

The report said the efforts by the two crews weren't as coordinated as they should have been. For example, while Abbotsford fire fighters were spraying water on the roof outside, Colby fire fighters were trying to fight the fire from inside. Rannow said as his crew was heading out of the theater, the roof collapsed -- killing Kampmeyer who was trapped inside.

"Whether it was on Abbotsford's radio frequency or on Colby's frequency, there wasn't communication between the two agencies that there should have been and as a result, there were a number of things that occurred which incident command wasn't aware of," said Rannow.

Newsline 9 also spoke with Abbotsford's fire chief, Jody Apfelbeck. While he was unavailable for an on camera interview he said the departments don't want to point fingers and now their crews are training together -- hoping to prevent another tragedy.

"Policies need to mesh instead of conflict and everything needs to work so the fact that we're working together now and training monthly has already shown great improvement," said Rannow.

While both chiefs said they can't dwell on the past, both agree -- they need to work together to move forward and honor the memory of their fallen firefighter.

"If we cannot improve upon the working relationship and operations between the two departments then basically Jamison died in vain and that's unacceptable," said Rannow. "What happened happened and we've learned from it. We need to not forget what we learned."

Dorchester crews have joined Colby and Abbotsford in their monthly training sessions. The fire chiefs said their crews have worked on a number of fires since March and each time, they are able to learn more to keep things running smoothly.

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