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-F26, 2000 Feb; :1-6
On June 23, 1999, a 20-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (the victim) was electrocuted while fighting a grass fire. The fire department was dispatched to the grass fire at 1657 hours and while en route, was notified by Central Dispatch of a possible downed power line. The initial call indicated that a branch from a large oak tree had fallen onto an overhead power line, knocking the line to the ground and igniting the surrounding grass. The first responding unit, Attack Truck 150, confirmed a downed power line. The Chief arrived on scene and parked his vehicle near the downed power line to warn all fire fighters of its location. The victim arrived in his privately owned vehicle, immediately went to the location of Engine 252, and helped the Deputy Chief and a fire fighter/paramedic extinguish the fire on the east flank. The Deputy Chief then pulled the engine into the burned-out area to hit hot spots and start mop-up operations. Once Engine 252 was repositioned, the victim asked the Deputy Chief if he could extinguish a smoldering pile of brush near a structure. The victim then walked approximately 50 feet from the engine toward the smoldering pile of brush, extinguished it, and walked toward another smoldering pile of brush near the downed power line and adjacent to the roadway. As the victim pulled a charged 1-inch line over the uneven terrain (Figure 1), he apparently tripped and fell, contacting the downed power line. He fell to the ground face first, landing on the 6,700-volt, single-phase power line. Another fire fighter retrieved a nonconductive tool from the engine and pulled the power line from beneath the victim. Two fire fighters moved the victim to the road and started Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) until the ambulance arrived and took the victim to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: Ensure that fire fighters stay away from downed power lines at a distance equal to at least one span between poles until the line is de-energized. Ensure protective shields, barriers, or alerting techniques are used to protect fire fighters from contacting energized electrical conductors. Alerting techniques should include safety signs and tags, barricades, or if no other means are available, an attendant stationed to warn and protect fire fighters. Ensure fire fighters are aware of the hazards when working around energized parts or equipment.