Del. captain shares graphic mayday video to support ongoing education, training

Captain Dave Smiley Jr. hopes firefighters can learn from the 2019 incident in which he suffered severe burns

By Janelle Foskett

NEW CASTLE COUNTY, Del. — A captain who survived a harrowing mayday incident has shared a personal account of the incident to help other firefighters learn from his experience.

Captain Dave Smiley Jr. produced the video about a March 14, 2019, residential structure fire in Newport, Delaware, where he became trapped while searching for victims. Smiley, who was serving as the rescue captain for Minquas Fire Company #1, suffered second- and third-degree burns to approximately 14% of his body.

The 13-minute video includes a play-by-play of the incident with helmet cam footage. Note: Due to the graphic nature of the video, it is only available to watch on YouTube. At the end of this article, please click "Watch on YouTube" to launch a new window.

Smiley shared the following words of advice at the end of the video:

  • “Your personal accountability is important – gear training, and mindset can all change the game in various ways.
  • Water is the most crucial tool to keep available and the biggest life line.
  • Continuous scene size-up and a proper 360 can make or break fire attack and search crews.
  • Maintained crew integrity and pre-determined role fulfillment allows for a safer and more efficient team.
  • Communicating problems to every unit on the fireground is extremely important.
  • Learning from the past is not a negative thing in any way.
  • Always check the floor below for yourself.
  • Slow down but keep moving.”

Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder said of the video: “You will be reminded and perhaps even jolted into remembering, re-understanding why every day is a training day. This is the reality of what can happen at a fire. Much went on at this fire that those involved – and all of us can learn from. And as we often say, don't worry about what you see here, instead...focus on how YOUR (mine and ours) fire departments would handle this same fire. Watch it a few times. Read the articles and reports. Take notes. A wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn.”

Watch the video on YouTube.


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