4 Career Fire Fighters Killed and 16 Fire Fighters Injured at Commercial Structure Fire - Texas


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

F2013-16 Date Released: July 15, 2015

Revised on April 5, 2017 to update the Executive Summary and the Cause of Death

Executive Summary

On May 31, 2013, a 35 year-old career captain, a 41 year-old career engineer operator, a 29 year-old career fire fighter, and a 24 year-old career fire fighter were killed when the roof of a restaurant collapsed on them during fire-fighting operations. The captain was assigned to Engine 51 (E51). The engineer/operator was assigned to Ladder 51, but was detailed to E51 and assigned to the left jumpseat (E51B). The two fire fighters were assigned to Engine 68 (E68). Upon arrival, the captain of E51 (E51A) radioed his size-up stating they had a working fire in the restaurant with heavy smoke showing plus a temperature reading from his thermal imager. E51 made an offensive attack from Side Alpha with a 2½ inch pre-connect hoseline in the restaurant. District Chief 68 (D68) arrived on scene and established “Command”. He ordered E51 out of the building because the engine operator of E51 (E51D) advised that E51 was down to a quarter tank of water. Engine 68 had arrived on scene and had laid two 4-inch supply lines from E51 to a hydrant east of the fire building on the feeder road. Once E51 had an established water supply, E51’s crew re-entered the building. Engine 68 (E68) was ordered to back-up E51 on the 2½ inch hoseline. Engine 82 (E82) (4th due engine company) was pulling a 1¾ inch hoseline to the front doorway that E51 had entered, when the collapse occurred. The roof collapsed 12 minutes after E51 had arrived on-scene and 15 minutes and 29 seconds after the initial dispatch. The fire fighter from E51 (E51C) was at the front doorway and was pushed out of the building by the collapse. The captain from E82 called a “Mayday” and Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) operations were initiated by Engine 60. During the RIT operations, a secondary wall collapse occurred injuring several members of the rescue group. Due to the tremendous efforts of the Rescue Group, a successful RIT operation was conducted. The captain of E68 was located and removed from the structure by the Rescue Group and transported to a local hospital. The engineer operator from E51 (E51B) was removed from the structure by the Rescue Group and later died at a local hospital. A search continued for the captain of E51 and the two fire fighters from E68. Approximately 2 hours after the collapse, the body of the captain from E51 was located on top of the restaurant roof debris. The two fire fighters from E68 (E68B and E68C) were discovered underneath the restaurant roof debris. The officer and two fire fighters were pronounced dead at the scene. Note: The captain of Engine 68 (E68A) died on March 7, 2017 from complications of the severe injuries suffered in the restaurant fire on May 31, 2013.

Contributing Factors

  • Fire burning unreported for 3 hours
  • Delayed notification of the fire department
  • Building construction
  • Wind impacted fire
  • Scene size-up
  • Personnel accountability
  • Fireground communications
  • Lack of fire sprinkler system

Key Recommendations

  • Based upon fire department procedures, the strategy and tactics for an occupancy should be defined by the organization for fire-fighting operations. The Incident Commander should ensure that the strategy and tactics match the conditions encountered during initial operations and throughout the incident
  • Fire departments should review and update standard operating procedures on wind-driven fires which are incorporated into fireground tactics
  • Fire departments should integrate current fire behavior research findings developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriter’s Laboratories (U.L.) into operational procedures by developing standard operating procedures, conducting live fire training, and revising fireground tactics

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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 www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

Page last reviewed: April 4, 2017