Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 99-F04, 1999 Apr; :1-8
A male fire fighter, a 27 year-old Captain (the victim) on a county volunteer fire department, died when he was trapped in the sanctuary of a church when the roof collapsed. On December 31, 1998, a county volunteer fire department was dispatched to a reported church fire. The church was built sometime around 1850 with construction consisting of wood balloon -frame walls and a heavy, wood, gabled roof. The first arriving fire fighters observed smoke and fire coming from the rear of the church. After an initial size-up, the Chief ordered a defensive attack at the rear of the church. To control extension of the fire, the Chief then ordered a line be taken into the sanctuary to conduct an offensive attack. Before ventilating the roof, the Chief ordered fire fighters to locate the access hole in the ceiling of the sanctuary to determine if the fire had already extended into the attic area. The access hole was located, and an officer climbed a ladder to check the attic area. Without warning the entire roof collapsed, trapping the victim and nearly trapping two other fire fighters. NIOSH investigators have concluded that, to minimize the chances of similar occurrences, fire departments should: ensure that pre-fire planning and inspections cover all structural building materials (type and age), components, and renovations so Incident Command (IC) at the fire scene will have the necessary background information on the structure to make informed decisions and appropriate plan of attack; ensure that defensive fire fighting tactics are suspended before switching the strategic mode of operation to an offensive attack to avoid opposing streams, and notify all affected personnel of the change in strategic modes; ensure fire fighting tactics and operations do not increase hazards on the interior, e.g., hose streams being directed into concealed ceiling spaces which will add additional weight to the structure, possibly causing it to fail; ensure that all standard operating procedures (SOPs) are updated and adequate for incident command and fireground operations and that all officers and fire fighters are trained and knowledgeable in all SOPs; ensure that all officers and fire fighters wear and use a personal alert safety system (PASS) device that are involved in fire fighting, rescue, or other hazardous duty.