The Fire/Emergency Medical Services Response

    On April 20,1999, Littleton’s Fire Engine 13 responded to a report of a weed fire and explosion on Wadsworth Boulevard, between Ken Caryl and Chatfield Avenues. A West Metro Fire District engine already was on scene and had extinguished the fire. A West Metro fire Investigator was en route to investigate the incident. Officers at the scene noted two small propane fuel containers and possibly fireworks on the ground in the area.

    As Engine 13 responded to the weed fire, the crew heard other fire engine and rescue crews responding to Columbine High School because of gunshots fired and a possible explosion on the roof.

    As units responded, requests for ambulances and a helicopter were initiated. A commander from the Littleton Fire District arrived on scene and assumed command, assigning all other fire and rescue units to stage away from the area. It became apparent this was an active situation and a command post was set up north of the school at the intersection of Leawood and Pierce streets. A call for all the command staff, additional rescues and engines, and additional ambulances was requested.

    Those at the command post received reports of multiple victims with gunshot wounds, smoke in the school and a possible natural gas leak inside. With that additional information, Littleton’s command requested that a Fire Task Force be set up to the south of the high school at the intersection of Coal Mine and Pierce streets, and an ambulance staging area at the command post. At this point, a triage and treatment area was established on the west wide of Pierce Street, south of the command post, to receive the wounded, reported to be from 25 to 35.

    The Chief of the Littleton Fire Department, William Pessemier, arrived on scene, assumed command of the fire response and established a unified command with the on scene Jefferson County Incident Commander, Lt. Dave Walcher. 

    The command post was notified that several victims were on the sidewalk outside the school cafeteria on the southwest side of the school. Two Littleton Fire Department Rescue units responded and rescued three victims, taking them first to the command post.  All three victims were stabilized and transported to area hospitals.

    Prior to leaving for the hospital, rescue crews notified the command post that the area was not secure, that there had been gunfire over their heads as the rescued the injured students and cover fire was supplied by the law enforcement officers in the area.

    Several Police vehicles were transporting students from the west wide of the school to the south entrance of Clement Park at Yukon and Caley Streets. The Yukon/ Caley Division triage and treatment area was established with a Littleton Fire Department lieutenant in charge. One patient was transported by Air Life and several were transported by ambulance from this area.

    A second triage and treatment area, the East Division, was set up on the east side of the school, after command was informed the remaining victims would be brought from inside the school to this location. The East Division was commanded by a Littleton Fire Department captain and transported several patients by ambulance to area hospitals.

    The final triage and treatment area was located on the west side near the library. This area, commanded by a Littleton Fire Department captain, assisted as medical personnel entered the library to rescue and transport the only patient still alive. The patient was transported to a hospital by ambulance

    Several agencies assisted with personnel and equipment during the incident. Units from West Metro Fire Protection District assisted with command functions, EMS staging, transportation of patients, treatment of patients, PIO functions and its chaplain assisted with families. Denver Fire Department assisted with the Fire Task Force. South Metro Fire and Rescue's Battalion vehicle was utilized as a communications vehicle. Columbine Ambulance Service, American Medical Response, Englewood Fire Department, Sheridan Fire Department, Rural Metro Ambulance Company, Pridemark Ambulance Company, Denver Health Ambulance, Air Life and Flight for Life were involved in the triage, treatment and transportation of patients.

    A total of 12 Fire and EMS agencies responded with 10 pieces of fire apparatus, 46 ambulances, 2 helicopters, 25 staff personnel and one chaplain.

    Littleton Fire Department's Deputy Fire Marshall, a bomb tech for Arapahoe County, assisted with identifying and defusing explosive devices, by entering the school with SWAT units during the second sweep of the school late that night.