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Volunteer Captain Dies After Floor Collapse Traps Him in Basement – New York

FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2013-02 Date Released: May 14, 2014

Executive Summary

On January 22, 2013, a 34-year-old male volunteer captain (the victim) died when the floor collapsed and trapped him in the basement at a residential structure fire. Crews were attempting to locate and extinguish fire that might have spread from a nearby shed fire that they were dispatched to. While a crew was fighting fire that had spread into the basement, the victim and his partner where pulling the ceiling just inside the front door to extinguish the fire that had spread to the attic. The floor collapsed sending them both into the basement. The victim’s partner was able to make it back up to the first floor doorway. He attempted to assist the victim out of the basement, but was unable to pull him up. The hole that the fire fighter had fallen through became untenable due to the fire conditions and fire fighters were unable to rescue him from the basement. The victim was recovered from the basement approximately 20 minutes later. Before he could be rescued, the victim’s mask became thermally degraded and he was overcome by the products of combustion. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead

Where fire originated

Shed fire location in front of camper and truck which spread to house.
(NIOSH Photo)


Contributing Factors

  • Inadequate water supply
  • Ineffective fireground communications
  • Ineffective incident command
  • Inadequate size-up
  • Uncoordinated fire attack
  • Lack of situational awareness
  • Deteriorated structural members

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should develop, implement and enforce a written Incident Management System to be followed at all emergency incident operations
  • Fire departments should ensure that the Incident Commander conducts an initial 360-degree size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning interior fire fighting operations
  • Fire departments should ensure that an adequate water supply is established and maintained
  • Fire departments should train fire fighters to communicate interior and exterior conditions to the incident commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates.

Read the full report

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH “Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program” which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.

For further information, visit the program Web site at or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).