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 F2008-21, 2009 Mar; :1-33
On July 05, 2008, a 42-year old male volunteer fire chief was killed when he was struck by a collapsing brick parapet wall during a commercial structure fire. The fire chief, along with four fire fighters, were finishing mopping up suppression activities at a grass fire when the fire department was dispatched to a structure fire. The fire chief and 2 fire fighters left the scene of the grass fire in a tanker and traveled to the scene of the structure fire where the fire chief began to size-up the burning commercial structure while the other 2 fire fighters traveled 5 blocks back to the station to obtain an engine and structural fire fighting gear. The 2 fire fighters returned to the structure fire scene with an engine parked in the street directly in front of the burning automotive repair and upholstery business. The fire chief grabbed a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) from the engine and pulled a preconnected 1 ¾-inch handline to the front door, assisted by a fire fighter who had just arrived in her personal automobile. The fire chief worked the nozzle through the doorway (using tank water) while the other fire fighters established water supply. Less than 5 minutes after the engine arrived on scene and shortly after water supply was established, the brick parapet wall at the front of the structure collapsed, striking the fire chief and burying him under the brick debris. Rescuers quickly uncovered the fire chief and medical treatment was started immediately. The fire chief, still conscious, was transported to a trauma hospital where he died several hours later. Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include failure to conduct a 360-degree size-up of the incident site, failure to recognize the potential collapse hazard, inadequate staffing, and inadequate fireground communications. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. ensure the Incident Commander conducts a complete 360-degree size-up of the incident scene including evaluating the potential for structural collapse; 2. establish and monitor a collapse zone when conditions indicate the potential for structural collapse; 3. train all fire fighting personnel in the risks and hazards related to structural collapse; 4. ensure that the Incident Commander maintains the role of director of fireground operations and does not become involved in fire fighting efforts; 5. ensure that the Incident Commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning fire fighting operations and continuously re-evaluates the situation; 6. ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to effectively respond to emergency incidents; 7. ensure that tactical operations are coordinated and communicated to everyone on the fireground; 8. ensure that every fire fighter on the fireground has a portable radio with sufficient tactical frequencies to effectively communicate on the fireground; 9. ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at each structure fire. While the following recommendations may not have prevented the death of the fire chief, fire departments should: 1. develop, implement and enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) or standard operating guidelines (SOGs) covering all aspects of structural fire fighting; 2. be prepared to use alternative water supplies to ensure adequate water is available for fire suppression.