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Seven career fire fighters injured at a metal recycling facility fire - California.

Bowyer ME
Cincinnati, OH: 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 F2010-30, 2011 Aug; :1-32
On July 13, 2010, seven career fire fighters were injured while fighting a fire at a large commercial structure containing recyclable combustible metals. At 2345 hours, 3 engines, 2 trucks, 2 rescue ambulances, an emergency medical service (EMS) officer and a battalion chief responded to a large commercial structure with heavy fire showing. Within minutes, a division chief, 2 battalion chiefs, 3 engines, 3 trucks, 4 rescue ambulances, 2 EMS officers and an urban search and rescue team were also dispatched. An offensive fire attack was initially implemented but because of rapidly deteriorating conditions, operations switched to a defensive attack after about 12 minutes on scene. Ladder pipe operations were established on the 3 street accessible sides of the structure. Approximately 40 minutes into the incident, a large explosion propelled burning shrapnel into the air, causing small fires north and south of structure, injuring 7 fire fighters, and damaging apparatus and equipment. Realizing that combustible metals may be present, the incident commander ordered fire fighters to fight the fire with unmanned ladder pipes while directing the water away from burning metals. Approximately 2 ½ hours later, two small concentrated areas remained burning and a second explosion occurred when water contacted the burning combustible metals. This time no fire fighters were injured. Contributing Factors: 1.) Unknown building contents; 2.) Unrecognized presence of combustible metals; 3.) Use of traditional fire suppression tactics; 4.) Darkness. Key Recommendations: 1.) Ensure that pre-incident plans are updated and available to responding fire crews; 2.) Ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in combustible metal fire recognition and tactics; 3.) Ensure that policies are updated for the proper handling of fires involving combustible metals; 4.) Ensure that first arriving personnel and fire officers look for occupancy hazard placards on commercial structures during size-up; 5.) Ensure that all fire fighters communicate fireground observations to incident command; 6.) Ensure that fire fighters wear all personal protective equipment when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health environment; 7.) Ensure that an Incident Safety Officer is dispatched on the first alarm of commercial structure fires; 8.) Ensure that collapse/hazards zones are established on the fireground.
Region-9; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Combustibility; Combustible-materials; Emergency-responders; Explosion-damage; Explosions; Explosive-hazards; Fire-fighters; Metal-compounds; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Protective-measures; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-personnel; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Metals; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Services: Public Safety
SIC Code
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