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 98-F32, 1999 May; :1-9
On November 6, 1998, two male volunteer fire fighters (from two different departments) died trying to exit a burning auto salvage storage building. Arriving on the scene of a metal pole building with light smoke showing, the Chief of Department #1 assumed command and discussed the possible origin of fire with the owner of the structure. The Incident Commander (IC) then decided to ventilate by ordering a fire fighter to open one of two small roll-up garage doors on the north face of the structure. He proceeded to the southwest corner of the structure where he ordered the owner to tear off metal exterior wall panels with his forklift. Once ventilation was completed, three members of Department #2 (Chief, Assistant Chief, and fire fighter) and three members of Department #3 (Captain, Lieutenant, and fire fighter) advanced two 1 and a half inch lines through the front door of the building which was filled with light smoke. As fire fighters proceeded to the rear of the structure to determine the fire's origin, heavy black smoke collected below the ceiling, and small flames trickled over the ceiling's skylights. Approximately 80 feet inside the structure, fire fighters found what they believed to be the seat of the fire and began to apply water. As fire fighting activities proceeded, fire fighters transferred the lines to other fire fighters because the low-air alarms on their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) were sounding. Approximately 11 minutes into the attack, the IC ordered both crews to exit to discuss further strategy. As the crews began to exit, an intense blast of heat and thick, black smoke covered the area, forcing fire fighters to the floor. The Chief (Victim #1) and Assistant Chief from Department #2 were knocked off the hose line and their SCBA low-air alarms began to sound as they radioed for help and began to search for an exit. The two departed in different directions and the Assistant Chief eventually ran out of air and collapsed. He was found immediately and assisted from the burning building. As fire fighters pulled the unconscious Assistant Chief to safety, the Lieutenant (Victim #2) from Department #3 reentered the structure to search for Victim #1. During his search, the Lieutenant ran out of air, became disoriented, and failed to exit. Victim #2 was discovered equipped with a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS); however, it was not turned on. Victim #1 was known to have entered without a PASS device. Additional rescue attempts were made but proved to be unsuccessful. NIOSH investigators conclude that, to reduce the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: Ensure that fire command always maintains close accountability for all personnel at the fire scene. Ensure that vertical ventilation takes place to release any heat and smoke directly above the fire. Ensure that Rapid Intervention Teams be established and in position. Ensure that fire fighters wear and use PASS devices when involved in interior fire fighting and other hazardous duties.