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Career Fire Lieutenant Dies in Cluttered Apartment Fire on 19th Floor of High-rise Residential Apartment Building – New York


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

F2014-14 Date Released: July 7, 2016

Executive Summary

On July 05, 2014, a 40-year-old male career lieutenant was overcome by extreme fire conditions while attempting to find the seat of the fire.

The fire was located in the bedroom of a 500-square-foot apartment on the 19th floor of a 21-story residential apartment building. The apartment was extremely cluttered with personal possessions stacked high against all walls, making travel through the apartment difficult. The lieutenant and his Ladder 119 crew forced the door to the fire apartment and entered to search for the seat of the fire. The Engine 211 lieutenant and fire fighter followed them into the apartment with a charged hoseline.

Due to the cluttered conditions, which limited their mobility, crews had trouble locating the seat of the fire. Visibility was limited due to the thick, optically-dense smoke. The conditions inside the apartment rapidly deteriorated, forcing both crews to withdraw to the hallway. The Engine 211 lieutenant radioed a Mayday and stated he had fire behind him. All fire fighters in the apartment were able to withdraw except for the Ladder 119 lieutenant. Engine 211 re-entered the apartment and extinguished the fire. A fire fighter reported hearing a PASS device in the direction of the bedroom. The Ladder 119 lieutenant was found a short time later, unresponsive and with his facepiece dislodged from his face. He was immediately transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Contributing Factors

  • Cluttered conditions within apartment blocked ingress and delayed getting water on the fire
  • Fire originated in bedroom where an extension cord overheated under clutter
  • Thick, dense smoke limited visibility
  • Thick, dense smoke became fuel in rapid fire progression
  • Lack of water on the fire
  • Lack of crew integrity exiting the apartment
  • Lack of a sprinkler system in high-rise apartment building
  • Radio traffic including Maydays not heard by everyone on fireground
  • Defective elevators in high-rise apartment building.


Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should integrate current findings of fire behavior research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) into operational procedures by developing standard operating procedures, conducting live fire training, and revising fireground tactics
  • Fire departments should have a written risk management plan, use risk management principles at all structure fires and especially at incidents involving high risk hazards
  • Fire departments should ensure that crew integrity is properly maintained by voice or radio contact when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) atmosphere
  • Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters are trained on the unique hazards presented by hoarding and standard operating procedures are developed and enforced to provide guidance for fire fighters confronted with hoarding conditions
  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are properly trained in air management
  • Fire departments should ensure fire fighters are trained in self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) emergencies
  • Fire departments should ensure that existing standard operating procedures for high-rise firefighting operations are reviewed, revised as necessary, and implemented.


  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are trained in situational awareness, personal safety, and accountability.


Read the full report