Philadelphia firefighter launches campaign for LED ladders

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Philadelphia firefighter launches campaign for LED ladders. Jeannette Reyes reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on July 20, 2018. (WPVI)

A tragic blaze 24 years ago planted the seeds for the concept of lights on ladders.

Lieutenant Bill Finegan of the Philadelphia Fire Department said, "That fire changed me. I've been basically trying to save her ever since."

It was about 5 a.m. in the morning on September 19, 1994, when Philadelphia firefighter Bill Finegan's unit was called to an intense fire that was tearing through a row home on Catherine Street.

"It was a late summer night. There was no moon," said Lt. Finegan.

The humidity was oppressive. Plumes of dark smoke would billow out of the building and quickly settle on the ground obscuring the view.

Those weather conditions would later play a fateful role in the tragedy that still haunts him to this day.

The intense fire killed a 24-year-old mother, her 16-month-old daughter and seriously hurt five others.

But it was the second daughter's death that was particularly gut-wrenching.

The body of 4-year-old Charmaine was discovered hours after the fire was put out in the backyard under some debris.

More than 25 years later, those memories still torment him.

"She landed at the base of the building. She died in the dark under one of our ladders," said Lt. Finegan.

Finegan, now a Lieutenant, says lights on that ladder would have illuminated the area where the little girl nicknamed Chae Chae was found. And so out of that painful realization was born a potentially lifesaving idea. A ladder with integrated LED lights.

"If we had had it that night we may have been able to find her," added Lt. Finegan.

Lieutenant Finegan and his business partner Pat Creed have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $145,000 needed for tooling and safety tests.

"We have preorders now. We just need to get these things made," said Lt. Finegan.

His wife Clare Finegan added, "I'm ready for the rubber to hit the road and take this to the next level."

And though we all know we can't change the past however difficult it may be, Finegan says it's now his mission to keep it from repeating itself.

"I'm still trying to rescue her you know," he said.

For more information, you can click on Finegan Lights for Firefighter Ladders.
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philadelphia fire departmentu.s. & worldPennsylvania
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