Firefighter recaps mayday call during incident at former hotel

JOPLIN, Mo. – Firefighters often face many dangers on the job, some are obvious, others are hidden. Two Joplin firefighters faced that hidden danger recently.

When you’re a firefighter, the last call you ever want to hear, or have to make, is ‘mayday.’ But that’s what happened last Friday during an incident at the former Holiday Inn in Joplin. Joplin Fire Chief Jim Furgerson says “I’ve been here for a little over 19 years that’s the first mayday that’s been called while I’ve actually been the incident commander of a scene, and it does, it’s heart stopping.”

Chief Furgerson says his top concern, is his firefighters. Chief Furgerson says “You wonder what is going on, what are they going through, where are they at, what’s the situation.”

Captain John Miles was one of the two firefighters that had to issue a mayday call that day. Miles says it was a typical call at first. “When we got there, there was no fire visible, lots of smoke, but no fire and that’s kinda where the issue was is we had to go in to find the fire.”

So he and a fellow firefighter entered the building. “So as we moved through, I stepped off, initially it felt like we were just falling, which happens on occasion, but then could realize where we were.”

Miles says the condition of the pool made it more challenging. “The pool, being dirty and had a film across the top of it, the imaging wasn’t able to differentiate between that and the rest of the floor.”

Miles says in his 20 years he’s never been in a mayday call, and he thanks the training they receive for keeping him safe. “The old adage is you fall back on your training, and I feel 100% that because we train as much as we do it wasn’t as big a deal as it could have been.”

We reached out to the company that owns the former Holiday Inn, but we have not received a response. The Joplin Chief Building Official says he’s concerned about the building’s condition and potential for vandalism.