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-F35, 2000 Mar; :1-6
On September 15, 1999, a 31-year-old female volunteer fire fighter (the victim) died after being struck by an engine at the scene of a wildland/field fire. The victim was part of an initial-attack fire fighting crew which had been dispatched to a 430-acre wildland/field fire. The victim and the Chief from the fire department responded in an emergency command car. A fire fighter/driver of Engine 8911 responded to the scene after hearing the call for additional manpower over his radio. He approached the fire scene and positioned the engine on the southwestern side of a barn near the fire scene. He parked the engine and began pulling 200 feet of 1 and a half inch hose lays with the assistance of a civilian who was already at the scene. He and the civilian began wetting down the barn and fighting the fire in the field and spot fires as they occurred. When the Chief and victim arrived they began pulling and positioning additional hoses. As the driver, Chief, civilian and victim were wetting down the barn and fighting the fire in the field, the fire began to increase in size causing visibility to decrease and making it hard to breathe. The fire started progressing towards the engine and the driver decided to move the engine. Prior to moving the engine, the driver positioned himself on the tailboard of the engine and began to yell out loud "area clear" warnings. The driver remembered seeing the Chief, civilian, and victim all leaving the fire scene on foot moving in a westward direction. As the smoke intensified, the driver got in the engine, rapidly backed it in a westward direction and, once he cleared the barn, parked the engine (see Figure). The driver asked the Chief if everyone was accounted for and the Chief responded that the victim was missing. The driver decided to walk around the barn to search for the victim, but halfway around the barn became unable to see or breathe due to the intense smoke. Making his way back to the engine, the driver put on a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and continued his search for the victim. A few minutes later the driver located the victim lying motionless on the ground near the barn where the engine had been previously parked (see Figure). After informing the Chief, a radio request was made for medical assistance, and a fire fighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) from the fire scene across the highway responded. The EMT announced that the victim was dead from obvious traumatic injuries to her head and face. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize similar occurrences, fire departments engaged in wildland fire fighting should: 1. Implement an incident command system (ICS) with written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all fire fighters and ensure they are trained on the system; 2. Utilize National Weather Service (NWS) Fire Weather (WX) Forecasts for all fire weather predictions and immediately share with all personnel all information about significant fire behavior events (e.g., long-range spotting, torching, spotting, and fire whirls); 3. Learn, communicate, and follow the 10 standard fire orders as developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).