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 F2000-26, 2001 Aug; :1-14
On April 20, 2000, a 33-year-old male career fire fighter was fatally injured while battling a residential structure fire. At approximately 1630 hours, Central Dispatch was notified of a reported structure fire at a single family residence. At 1631 hours, Central Dispatch notified the local fire department of the reported structure fire. Car 12 (captain/incident commander [IC]), Engine 1 (lieutenant, engine operator, and fire fighter [FF#1]), Engine 2 (lieutenant, fire fighter [FF#2], and engine operator/fire fighter [victim]), Rescue 52 (two fire fighter/paramedics [FF#3 and FF#4]), Car 14 (air supply van, two fire fighters [FF#5 and FF#6]), and Rescue 50 (two fire fighter/paramedics [FF#7 and FF#8]) responded to the scene. At 1633 hours, a captain arrived on the scene and established incident command (IC). He conducted a scene size-up, including a walk-around of the structure, and confirmed to Central Dispatch that there was a working structure fire with thick black smoke emitting from the garage/basement. As Engine 1 was approaching the scene, the IC instructed the crew to stop and connect to the hydrant. Rescue 52 met up with Engine 1 at the hydrant and assisted them in making the connection. Engine 1 connected their supply line to the hydrant and proceeded to the scene as Rescue 52 finished making the hydrant connection. The IC radioed that the fire was in the garage/basement. Rescue 52 arrived on the scene. The lieutenant from Engine 1 instructed FF#1 to pull a 1¾-inch handline off of Engine 1 and proceed with him into the garage/basement of the structure. At approximately the same time, FF#5 and FF#6 arrived on the scene in Car 14 (air supply van). They reported to the IC and were instructed to pull a 1¾-inch handline and enter through the front door of the structure with the victim. They walked into the structure and immediately dropped to their knees due to heat and lack of visibility. They made their way into the structure, moving to their left approximately 10 feet. The victim was on the nozzle and FF#5 and FF#6 served as backup. Heavy smoke made it impossible to see, so they exited the structure to get a positive pressure fan (PPV) to aid in ventilation. As they exited, FF#4 was setting up the fan at the front door of the structure. The victim and FF#5 and FF#6 reentered the structure through the front door and made their way to the right and into the living room. FF#5, FF#6, and the victim were near the bathroom of the residence when FF#6 heard a loud crack. It is believed that at this time the victim fell through the bathroom floor into the basement. The engine operator from Engine 1 went into the basement bedroom, entering from the garage through the utility room into the downstairs bedroom. The engine operator from Engine 1, with the help of FF#1 and FF#4, removed the victim from the structure. The victim was flown by an emergency-transport helicopter to a regional trauma center where he was pronounced dead. NIOSH investigators concluded that to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1) ensure that fire fighters performing fire fighting operations under or above trusses are evacuated as soon as it is determined that the trusses are exposed to fire; 2) ensure that a rapid intervention team is established and in position upon arrival; 3) ensure that fireground communication is present through both the use of portable radios and face-to-face communications; 4) ensure that exterior fire attack is at a minimum during search and rescue; 5) ensure fire fighters are trained to recognize the danger of searching above a fire. Although there is no evidence that it contributed to this fatal event, the following recommendation is being provided as a reminder of good safety policy; 6) ensure consistent use of personal alert safety system (PASS) devices at all incidents and consider providing fire fighters with a PASS integrated into their self-contained breathing apparatus.