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Career probationary fire fighter and captain die as a result of rapid fire progression in a wind-driven residential structure fire - Texas.

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 F2009-11, 2010 Apr; :1-58
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, April 12, 2009, a 30-year old male career probationary fire fighter and a 50-year old male career captain were killed when they were trapped by rapid fire progression in a wind-driven residential structure fire. The victims were members of the first arriving company and initiated fast attack offensive interior operations through the front entrance. Less than six minutes after arriving on-scene, the victims became disoriented as high winds pushed the rapidly growing fire through the den and living room areas where interior crews were operating. Seven other fire fighters were driven from the structure but the two victims were unable to escape. Rescue operations were immediately initiated but had to be suspended as conditions deteriorated. The victims were located and removed from the structure approximately 40 minutes after they arrived on location. Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include: an inadequate size-up prior to committing to tactical operations; lack of understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics; fire in a void space burning in a ventilation controlled regime; high winds; uncoordinated tactical operations, in particular fire control and tactical ventilation; failure to protect the means of egress with a backup hose line; inadequate fireground communications; and failure to react appropriately to deteriorating conditions. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1.) Ensure that an adequate initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene is conducted before beginning interior fire fighting operations. 2.) Ensure that fire fighters and officers have a sound understanding of fire behavior and the ability to recognize indicators of fire development and the potential for extreme fire behavior (such as smoke color, velocity, density, visible fire, heat). 3.) Ensure that fire fighters are trained to recognize the potential impact of windy conditions on fire behavior and implement appropriate tactics to mitigate the potential hazards of wind-driven fire. 4.) Ensure that fire fighters understand the influence of ventilation on fire behavior and effectively apply ventilation and fire control tactics in a coordinated manner. 5.) Ensure that fire fighters and officers understand the capabilities and limitations of thermal imaging cameras (TIC) and that a TIC is used as part of the size-up process. 6.) Ensure that fire fighters are trained to check for fire in overhead voids upon entry and as charged hoselines are advanced. 7.) Develop, implement and enforce a detailed Mayday Doctrine to insure that fire fighters can effectively declare a Mayday. 8.) Ensure fire fighters are trained in fireground survival procedures. 9.). Ensure all fire fighters on the fire ground are equipped with radios capable of communicating with the Incident Commander and Dispatch. Additionally, research and standard setting organizations should conduct research to more fully characterize the thermal performance of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepiece lens materials and other personal protective equipment (PPE) components to ensure SCBA and PPE provide an appropriate level of protection. Although there is no evidence that the following recommendation could have specifically prevented the fatalities, NIOSH investigators recommend that fire departments ensure that all fire fighters recognize the capabilities and limitations of their personal protective equipment when operating in high temperature environments.
Region-6; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Emergency-responders; Equipment-design; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Training; Traumatic-injuries; Surveillance
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Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Services: Public Safety
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Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division