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Downed power line claims the life of one volunteer fire fighter and critically injures two fellow fire fighters - Missouri.

Cortez-KL; Mezzanotte-TP
NIOSH 2000 Mar; :1-8
On October 4, 1999, a 20-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (the victim) was electrocuted and two other fire fighters were injured when they contacted an electric fence while fighting a grass fire. Central Dispatch notified the fire department at 0700 hours of a fire which was started when a downed power line ignited the surrounding grass. The Chief was the first to arrive on scene, and he confirmed that a power line was down. He also indicated to Central Dispatch and to the responding fire fighters that the electric fence bordering the area was energized by the downed power line. The Chief parked his truck on the road near the end of the downed line to warn arriving units of its location. Engine 1, with a driver and one fire fighter (Injured #1), was next to arrive and was positioned in a driveway on the north flank of the fire (Figure 3). Two fire fighters (the victim and Injured #2) arrived in their privately owned vehicles and assisted the driver of Engine 1 and Injured #1 pull a booster line off Engine 1. After the victim, the driver of Engine 1, and Injured #1 and #2 pulled a booster line, they crawled underneath the bottom wire of the electric fence. Injured #1 and Injured #2 positioned themselves approximately 50 feet from the downed power line and attacked the primary fire. To prevent the fire from spreading to brush piles in the adjoining piece of property, the driver of Engine 1 rolled back under the energized fence to get a rake and create a fire control line around the brush piles. After approximately 15 minutes on the fire ground, the Chief yelled for assistance to the driver of Engine 1, stating that he had three fire fighters down. The three fire fighters were lying in the area of a secondary fire (Figure 1). The Chief grabbed Injured #1 by the collar of her bunker coat and pulled her from the fire. The driver of Engine 1 grabbed Injured #2 and the victim and removed them from the fire. Basic first aid procedures were administered until the ambulance arrived. Injured #1 was transported by helicopter to an area hospital, and Injured #2 was transported by ambulance to the local hospital and then moved to the burn unit of an area hospital. The victim was transported by ambulance to a local hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. NIOSH investigators concluded that to minimize the risk of similar occurrences fire departments should: ensure that the Incident Commander conveys strategic decisions to all suppression crews on the fire ground and continually reevaluates fire conditions; ensure that fire fighters stay away from downed power lines a distance equal to at least one span between poles until the power line is de-energized; ensure fire fighters are aware of the hazards when working around energized parts or equipment; ensure fire fighters are equipped with the proper personal protective equipment and monitor to ensure its use.
Fire-fighting; Electrical-hazards; Electrical-shock; Protective-equipment; Traumatic-injuries; Region-7; Fire-fighters; Fire-protection-equipment; Fire-safety; Personal-protective-equipment; Injury-prevention; Electrical-conductivity; Electric-power-transmission-lines
Publication Date
Document Type
Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation; Field Studies
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health