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Fire chief dies 10 days after exposure to toxic gases and smoke.

New Jersey Department of Health
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 96NJ060, 1997 Mar; :1-8
On August 14, 1996, a 59-year-old deputy fire chief was critically injured and two other fire officers received minor injuries after inhaling toxic gases at a fire scene. The incident occurred at a fast food restaurant when a fire broke out in the hamburger broiler. Spreading into the hood and exhaust ductwork above the broiler, the fire quickly spread to the roof of the building where it was drawn into the roof top air conditioning system. The heat apparently burst the air conditioner's cooling coils, releasing Freon gas into the fire that thermally decomposed into acid and phosgene gases. The toxic gases were drawn into the building and mixed with the smoke and other fire gases until the fire fighters began to ventilate the building and extinguish the fire. This pushed the smoke and gases out the rear of the building, surrounding the fire chief who was standing outside near the back door. The chief, who was not wearing an air mask, developed severe respiratory symptoms and was immediately taken to the local hospital where he was admitted and hospitalized for two days. Two other officers, the department chief and a fire captain, also received minor injuries after breathing the smoke. Both were examined at the hospital and released. After his release from the hospital, the deputy chief returned to doing administrative work but was prohibited from fire fighting. On August 24, 1996, ten days after the incident, the deputy chief collapsed at his home and died of complications related to his injury. NJ FACE investigators concluded that, to prevent similar incidents in the future, employers should follow these safety guidelines: 1. Fire departments should develop and implement an exterior perimeter policy for SCBA use. 2. Incident commanders should be notified of any potentially hazardous or unusual situations. In addition, restaurant owners should take the following fire protection measures: 3. Restaurant owners should ensure that staff are trained in operating the emergency fire suppression system and that exhaust hoods are kept free of grease.
Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Work-practices; Training; Region-2; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-fighting-equipment; Fire-hazards; Fire-protection; Fire-safety; Occupational-accidents; Occupational-exposure; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-health; Gases; Work-analysis; Toxic-gases; Combustion-gases; Emergency-responders
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-96NJ060; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-207088
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
New Jersey Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division