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Career captain dies after running out of air at a residential structure fire - Michigan.

Tarley J; Bowyer M; Merinar T
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 F2005-05, 2006 Jan; :1-14
On January 20, 2005, a 39-year-old male career Captain (the victim) died after he ran out of air, became disoriented, and then collapsed at a residential structure fire. The victim and a fire fighter made entry into the structure with a handline to search for and extinguish the fire. While searching in the basement, the victim removed his regulator for 1 to 2 minutes to see if he could distinguish the location and cause of the fire by smell. While searching on the main floor of the structure, the fire fighter's low air alarm sounded and the victim directed the fire fighter to exit and have another fire fighter working outside take his place. The victim and the second fire fighter went to the second floor without the handline to continue searching for the fire. Within a couple of minutes, the victim's low air alarm started sounding. The victim and the fire fighter became disoriented and could not find their way out of the structure. The victim made repeated calls over his radio for assistance but he was not on the fireground channel. The second fire fighter "buddy breathed" with the victim until the victim became unresponsive. The second fire fighter was low on air and exited. The fire intensified and had to be knocked down before the victim could be recovered. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) for structural fire fighting, including the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), ventilation, and radio communications; 2. ensure that the Incident Commander completes a size-up of the incident and continuously evaluates the risk versus benefit when determining whether the operation will be offensive or defensive; 3. ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to immediately respond to emergency incidents; 4. use defensive fire fighting tactics when adequate apparatus and equipment for offensive operations are not available; 5. ensure that ventilation is closely coordinated with the fire attack; 6. ensure that team continuity is maintained during fire suppression operations; 7. ensure those fire fighters who enter hazardous areas, e.g., burning or suspected unsafe structures, are equipped with two-way communications with Incident Command; 8. instruct fire fighters on the hazards of exposure to products of combustion such as carbon monoxide (CO) and warn them never to remove their face pieces in areas in which such products are likely to exist; 9. ensure that a Rapid Intervention Team is in place before conditions become unsafe; 10. use guidelines/ropes securely attached to permanent objects and/or a bright, narrow-beamed light at all entry portals to a structure to guide fire fighters during emergency egress; 11. use evacuation signals when command personnel decide that all fire fighters should be evacuated from a burning building or other hazardous area; 12. train fire fighters on actions to take while waiting to be rescued if they become lost or trapped inside a structure. Additionally, municipalities should establish dispatch centers that are integrated with fire response functions.
Region-5; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-fighting-equipment; Fire-hazards; Fire-safety; Self-contained-breathing-apparatus; Respiratory-protection; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Toxic-gases; Poison-gases; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Emergency-responders; Surveillance
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Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division