How Local Fire Departments Make the Tough Calls

By Kelly McCarthy

January 23, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 12:18 AM EDT

Newark Valley, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When do firefighters enter a burning building and who makes that call? A former Newark Valley Fire Chief explains the situation they were presented with Monday night in Newark Valley.

Alexander says when the two men -- Capt. Matthew Porcari and Lt. Daniel Gavin, both of the Owego Fire Department -- entered the burning house on Chamberlain Road, their main concern was preventing the fire from spreading.

The residents of the home were able to escape without injury. As a result, Alexander said the priority shifted to preserving as much of the house as possible. When crews first arrived, Alexander said there was still a chance some of the home could have been saved.

Several volunteer fire departments responded to the scene.

Firefighters say Porcari and Gavin entered as a two-man team to attack the fire when the first floor gave way under them.

"Nothing had indicated to them at that point that there was anything unsafe about it, and I think when they determined that the floor was becoming unsafe was the same time that the firemen fell through the floor," Alexander said.

Porcari and Gavin were not the first team to enter the home.

"It was an unfortunate accident, I think the only way it could have been prevented was by not fighting the fire." Alexander said. "But our job is to go out there and save people's property and try do it as safely as possible."

A department's fire chief, the fire safety officer and individual firefighters are able to determine whether they will enter a burning building.

The state requires every volunteer firefighter to complete at least 78 hours of classroom and field training.

The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental.