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 F2001-09, 2001 Dec; :1-12
On February 25, 2001, a 46-year-old volunteer Assistant Chief was fatally injured in a structural collapse at a local business. On February 25, 2001, at approximately 0450 hours, a resident notified the local Sheriff's department of a structure fire at a local business. The first responding volunteer department responded to the fire at approximately 0500 hours. However, due to safety concerns by the local Sheriff's Department, they were told to stage approximately ? mile away from the fireground until it was deemed safe for them to begin fire suppression activities. Note: There were safety concerns from the sheriff's department due to a domestic disturbance that occurred at this location earlier in the day. After the local Sheriff's Department secured the scene, Volunteer Department #1 left the staging area and made their way to the fireground. At approximately 0600 hours, the Chief of Volunteer Department #1 assumed Incident Command (IC) and started an aggressive fire suppression operation. Volunteer Department #2 arrived on the scene at approximately 0610 hours and began assisting Volunteer Department #1 with fire suppression and water supply operations. Crews began to ventilate the structure by clearing windows. The IC then assisted a crew on the north side of the structure on a ladder to hit the fire through a window. The IC ordered crews to ladder the roof to try to force a door (hay loft) open to provide some vertical ventilation to assist suppression efforts. At approximately 0700 hours, Volunteer Department #3 was paged out to respond. At approximately 0745 hours, crews from Volunteer Department #3 arrived on the scene. At approximately 0752 hours, two fire fighters (the victim and the injured fire fighter) from Volunteer Department #3 were given an assignment by the Assistant Chief from Volunteer Department #1. The Assistant Chief instructed them to relieve the two fire fighters from Volunteer Department #1 on hoselines near the breezeway area. The victim and the injured fire fighter made their way to the door north of the breezeway to begin fire suppression. At approximately 0757 hours, the victim went into the structure approximately three steps to retrieve the nozzle, which was left just inside the doorway, and the injured fire fighter stayed in the doorway as backup. The victim started to back out of the structure when the injured fire fighter heard a series of cracks and yelled for the victim to exit. The injured fire fighter was approximately 2 feet from the structure and heard a "loud crack and a roar." The exterior wall and roof collapsed outward and hit the injured fire fighter in the middle of his back (the top edge of the wall landed on the injured fire fighter's SCBA cylinder) and pinned him face down in the snow. The victim was also pinned beneath the collapsed wall, approximately 2 feet behind and to the left of the injured fire fighter. At this time all fireground crews began extrication of the two trapped fire fighters. The injured fire fighter was removed from beneath the wall, placed on a backboard, and taken to the hospital. Crews began placing cribbing and air jacks to assist in the removal of the victim. At approximately 0825 hours, crews were able to remove the victim from beneath the debris. The victim was loaded onto a backboard, placed in an ambulance and transported to a nearby hospital. The victim was then air lifted to a regional trauma center where he died the next day. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar incidents, fire departments should: 1. ensure that a collapse zone is designated and monitored to ensure that no fire fighting operations take place in the danger zone; 2. evaluate the risk versus gain when deciding on an offensive or defensive fire attack; and, 3. ensure that the Incident Commander remains at the command post for the duration of the fire or until he/she is relieved of his/her position.