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Volunteer Fire Fighter Dies After Inhaling Super-heated Gases at a Residential Structure Fire – New York


FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A report from the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program

F2015-20 Date Released: February 27, 2017

Executive Summary

On December 19, 2015, a 19-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (lieutenant in rank) with Department 41 died after inhaling super-heated gases in the basement at a residential structure fire. Department 19 was dispatched for a chimney fire in a residential structure at 1859 hours. Per predefined mutual aid agreements, Department 41 was dispatched for FAST (fire fighter assistance and search team) operations. The Department 41 Rescue Truck 4120, with the second assistant chief, the lieutenant, and an exterior fire fighter on-board, arrived first on-scene at 1910 hours. The Department 41 second assistant chief radioed Dispatch and reported a working fire. The Department 19 chief arrived next, followed by Engine 1910, with a lieutenant and one fire fighter onboard. The Department 19 chief assumed incident command and requested a second alarm. The Department 19 lieutenant pulled a preconnected 1¾-inch hoseline to the front door. The Department 41 second assistant chief and lieutenant grabbed two self-contained breathing apparatus from Engine 1910 and joined the Department 19 lieutenant on the hoseline. They donned their facepieces on the front porch, went on air, and proceeded inside and found fire burning up the walls behind a wood stove located near the center of the Side C wall. After knocking down the fire and pulling ceilings, the hoseline crew went outside. The Department 19 lieutenant reported to the incident commander while the Department 41 second assistant chief and lieutenant went to size up the basement. They found a basement door near the A-D corner and entered the basement about 10–15 feet. They found fire burning in the basement at the C-D corner and returned outside to get a hoseline. Soon after re-entering the basement with a charged hoseline, the Department 41 second assistant chief realized his lieutenant was missing and stepped outside to ask if anyone had seen the lieutenant. He reported the lieutenant as missing to a nearby chief. The FAST was activated and rescuers reentered the basement. The lieutenant was found on his knees, facing Side C near an open door leading to a utility room containing active fire. The lieutenant indicated he needed assistance. As the lieutenant was dragged outside, he became unresponsive. He received medical assistance and was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Contributing Factors

  • Lack of crew integrity
  • Improper SCBA use
  • Inexperienced fire fighter
  • Special service vehicle not equipped with SCBA
  • Lack of training on fire dynamics


Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should ensure that crew integrity is properly maintained by visual (eye-to-eye), direct (touch), or verbal (voice or radio) contact at all times when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) atmosphere.
  • Fire departments should ensure that special service vehicles are equipped with the appropriate equipment as specified in NFPA 1901 Standard on Automotive Fire Apparatus.
  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters wear a full array of turnout clothing and personal protective equipment appropriate for the assigned task while participating in fire suppression and overhaul activities.
  • Fire departments should ensure that Mayday training programs are developed and implemented so that fire fighters are adequately prepared to call a Mayday.


  • Standard setting organizations, enforcement agencies, and authorities having jurisdiction should consider developing, implementing, and enforcing national fire fighter and fire officer training standards and requirements.


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