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Ranking AFD Firefighter Initiates Command of Dangerous Fire

Friday’s Hero: Interim Deputy Chief Victor Padilla

February 28, 2014

Albuquerque- Today Chief Administrative Officer Robert Perry honored an Albuquerque firefighter who was the first to notice a fire at the National Institute of Flamenco building and jumped into action to try to save property and lives. Interim Deputy Chief Victor Padilla is being honored as this week's Friday's Hero for his willingness to take charge of the dangerous fire despite never having been dispatched to the call.  Though he was the Fire Marshal at the time, Padilla has since been promoted to the new title.

This past December, Deputy Chief Padilla had just left a meeting and was driving downtown when he noticed a light stream of smoke which appeared to be coming from one of the buildings in the neighborhood.  When he reached the intersection of 2nd and Gold he saw that the smoke was rising from the roof vents of the flamenco studio.  Knowing there could be people inside whose lives may be at risk, Deputy Chief Padilla was quick to action.  He entered the building and began evacuating occupants from the strip mall structure while contacting the alarm room to request backup. He then set up an Incident Command and prepared an Incident Action Plan for what would turn out to be a two alarm fire consisting of 23 units and over 50 firefighters.

Additional crews arrived to begin fighting the large fire, with hopes of saving the building.  Based on his expertise of fire indicators and behavior, Deputy Chief Padilla was concerned that the roof showed signs of imminent collapse. He made the call for all firefighters to immediately seize interior operations and evacuate the building. Mere moments after the evacuation, the roof collapsed resulting in flames shooting 50 feet into the air. Once all firefighters were accounted for, the crews began a defensive attack on the fire from the outside of the building. After 3 ½ hours of critical work, the fire was extinguished.  Unfortunately the flamenco studio was a loss, however thanks to firefighters’ efforts, the rest of the strip mall was saved.

Victor Padilla has served the Albuquerque Fire Department for 16 years.  His self- initiated action saved critical time in removing people from harm's way and his decisive assessment of the dangers protected fire personnel from serious injury and prevented fatalities.