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Career fire fighter dies and chief is injured when struck by 130-foot awning that collapses during a commercial building fire - Texas.

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 F2007-01, 2007 Jul; :1-27
On December 30, 2006, a 31-year-old male career fire fighter (the victim) died when he was struck by a collapsing awning while applying water to hot spots at a structure fire in a one-story commercial building. The Chief of the department was also struck by the collapsing awning. Both the victim and the chief were trapped under the awning. Extrication took approximately 10 minutes. The 130-foot long building was approximately 45 years old and at the time of the fire was divided into three separate business areas. The front of the building was mostly glass with wood and concrete blocks between and above the glass panels and doors. The structure had a flat roof consisting of plywood sheeting covered by layers of tar and was supported by open-web, pin-connected metal and wood trusses. An awning constructed of wooden 2" X 4" framing lumber, plywood, and asphalt shingles was attached to the top of the front wall and extended the entire length of the building. The fire was reported at approximately 0841 hours and fire fighters were on-scene within 5 minutes containing the fire to the building. Interior operations were suspended after the fire intensified and fire fighters worked to suppress the fire from the exterior. The open-web truss roof collapsed approximately 20 minutes after fire fighters arrived on scene. At approximately 0910 hours, the victim was directed by the Chief to stretch a 1 ¾ inch handline to the south end of the front of the structure to put water on hotspots burning in bundles of rolled roofing material located near the front of the structure. Minutes later, the awning broke loose from the front wall, rolled forward and fell, striking both men and pinning them beneath the overturned awning. A third fire fighter, at the north end of the building was struck on the leg and foot by falling debris, narrowly missing serious injury. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. Establish and monitor a collapse zone for structures that have become unstable due to fire damage. 2. Train all fire fighting personnel in the risks and hazards related to structural collapse. 3. Conduct pre-incident planning and inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate development of safe fire ground strategies and tactics. 4. Ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to immediately respond to emergency incidents. 5. Ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at each structural fire. 6. Ensure that the Incident Commander maintains the role of director of fireground operations and does not become involved in fire fighting efforts. 7. Ensure that switching from offensive to defensive operations are coordinated and communicated to everyone on the fireground. 8. Ensure that fire fighters wear a full array of turnout clothing and personal protective equipment (i.e. SCBA and PASS device) appropriate for the assigned task while participating in fire suppression and overhaul activities. Additionally, manufacturers, equipment designers, and researchers should: 9. Continue to develop and refine durable, easy-to-use systems to enhance verbal and radio communication in conjunction with properly worn SCBA. 10. Continue to pursue emerging technologies for evaluating and monitoring the stability of buildings exposed to fireground conditions.
Region-6; Accident-analysis; Accidents; Accident-prevention; Injury-prevention; Injuries; Traumatic-injuries; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting-equipment; Emergency-responders; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Training; Safety-personnel; Safety-measures; Safety-education; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Protective-measures; Protective-equipment; Protective-clothing; 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: November 6, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division