One year ago, Capt. Scott Boyd volunteered to lead T5 into a burning construction site to make a rooftop trench cut that diverted the flames and saved the northern end of the structure
Fire broke out at the massive Eastern Wharf construction site just after noon, February 27, 2020. Merciless winds fueled walls of flames that consumed floor after floor of wooden construction material. It quickly became one of the largest fires in Savannah history. All available units were working the muddy, smoke-filled scene. Layers of collapsed construction fed the flames and blocked access to the seat of the fire. It was relentless. Even with the help of off-duty firefighters and mutual aid from area departments, it burned for three days.
Capt. Scott Boyd’s ladder truck unit fought the fire for 11 hours. They hauled heavy hose and gear though a mile-long stretch of thick, knee deep mud. Inside, they waded through a maze of hallways filled with black smoke, icy runoff water and construction debris, only to be forced out of the building over and over by wild, wind-blown flames.
When all hope for saving the facility seemed lost, Boyd volunteered to lead his unit back inside to make a rooftop trench cut and divert the flames upward. It was a last ditch attempt to save the northern end of the mammoth structure. Exhausted, cold and weighted down by 70 pounds of soggy bunker gear, Boyd and his crew willed themselves up blackened stairways toward the roof. Despite not knowing which way the icy wind would push the flames next, Boyd led the effort to cut a trench from one side of the weakened structure to the other. Visibility was limited. Each time they made cuts in the roof, fire and thick black smoke leapt up at them. By the time they completed the trench, a tower of flames was raging up into the sky. They had saved the northern end of the building, but in the process, flooded the rooftop stairwell with fire. Boyd and his crew were trapped on the burning roof.
With fire burning below and raging all around, Boyd’s hero instincts kicked in. He led his crew to the edge of the burning building in search of a way down. They spied the top of an elevator shaft 12-feet below. Boyd directed each crew member to lower themselves into the shaft until they could safely drop down. Then using an abandoned construction ladder, Boyd ushered them out of the shaft and across a ten foot span. The dangerous path led them from the sixth floor of the burning building to the safety of a parking garage.
Everyone made it out without injury. Boyd then checked in with the incident commander and asked what more they could do. He returned his unit to the firefight and worked until the pre-dawn hours.